It may have been April Fool’s Day, but the Hiland Hawks weren’t fooling around when it came to keeping their slate clean in a double dip with West Holmes at West Holmes High School Saturday, April 1.
The Hawks diamond men stayed perfect on the young season by capturing a pair of wins over the Knights Saturday, April 1, winning the opener 6-2 then taking the nightcap 13-2 in a five-inning affair.
“I didn’t think we came out really sharp,” said Hiland coach Tom Gibson of the opener. “We did what we had to do. Damien (Kandel) did OK until he started walking guys, but he is coming along.”
Perhaps some of the rust came from Hiland being surprised there were games at all. With heavy rain inundating the area all day Friday and into Saturday morning, Gibson said he talked with Hiland athletic director Art Yoder earlier in the morning and he half expected the games to be canceled.
“Art called me back and said, ‘The field is in good shape, we are playing,’” Gibson said with a chuckle. “This field was in great shape.”
West Holmes got on top early by plating a run in the bottom of the first off of Hiland starter Mitch Massaro. Slade Barnes singled to start the game and came around when Drew Campbell moved him over and Brendan Bridenthal drove him home with the third of three Knights singles.
Hiland finally nicked West Holmes starter Kendrick Wagler in the third, when Damien Kandel doubled to right and scoring on Bryan Yoder’s single
The score would stay right there through five innings, the only thing that changed would be Kandel coming on to throw for Hiland in the fourth inning.
But in the top of the fifth, Hiland would strike for a trio of runs. Kandel got plunked by a Wagler offering, and came around to score on Chris Kline’s double to left. He went to third on a balk and Tyson Gingerich walked. Gingerich stole second, and Cordell Miller’s sacrifice fly brought Kline home. A Massaro ground-out and Andy Miller’s RBI single gave Hiland a 4-1 lead.
Kandel cruised through the fifth and sixth, and in the top of the seventh Hiland padded the lead. Kline and Gingerich hit back-to-back singles to start the inning, and they rode home on Braden Mast’s two-run single to make it 6-1.
West Holmes finally got something going off of Kandel in its final at bat.
After Jake Donaldson hit a laser to right that was caught, Shane Jones and Erik Hanna walked as Kandel tired. Gavin Sheldon drove home Jones, and in came Mast, who allowed a runner to reach on an error before getting a line-out to shortstop on a nice lay by Kline off the bat of Trenton Yoder.
Kandel would pick up the mound win for Hiland, going three-plus innings of two-hit baseball. Wagler would assume the loss, firing five innings of four-hit ball.
“They are so good at the little things they do so well,” said West Holmes coach Bill Pim. “It was 1-1 going into the fifth, and they did the little things and we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had.”
Those little things did not fall into place for West Holmes in the opening frame of the second game. A series of errors allowed Hiland to score four runs in the opening inning courtesy of just one hit.
Michael Miller led off with a walk, and after he was forced out at second, a possible double play ball hit runner Tyson Gingerich in the back
Down 4-0, the Knights never recovered and continued to fall behind further. Ryan Hershberger finally got Hiland’s first hit of the inning three batters later, and another West Holmes error allowed Bryan Yoder, who had walked, to score the fourth run.
Hiland pitcher Derek Miller was dealing a shutout for the Hawks through three innings, while Hiland kept adding to its lead.
Michael Miller singled to start the second, and another Knights error kick-started a four-run second inning, with Cameron Miller, Hershberger and Scott Ropp all hammering out run-scoring hits.
The Hawks would add two more in the fourth, courtesy of yet another error and back-t-back hits from Ropp and Kyle Mast, but the Knights would finally solve Derek Miller in the bottom of the inning.
Miller plunked Trenton Yoder and Isaac Wine laced a double to right to plate the first Knights run. The second came home on Bridger Cline’s single, and West Holmes trimmed the deficit to 10-2.
However, the Hawks went right back to work in the top of the fifth, plating four more runs to taker a commanding 14-2 lead, which held, ending the game.
Singles from Cameron Miller and Tyson Gingerich and a two-run double to the gap in left-center by Ropp proved to be the big blows in the inning.
Derek Miller went four innings to pick up the win for Hiland, fanning four while allowing three hits and two walks. Gavin Sheldon took the loss for the Knights, giving up seven runs in an inning-plus of work, but just one of those runs was earned.
The ugly second game for West Holmes took some of the effort of game one away for West Holmes, but both coaches felt that the Knights are better than they showed in the nightcap.
“I like their team,” Gibson said of West Holmes. “They’ve got some nice athletes. Bridenthal is a nice pitcher, he’s got some nice fundamentals. Their shortstop had a nice day and their catcher is a tough kid.”
Pim said although the Knights dropped both contests to the defending Div. III state champion Hawks, he doesn’t feel as though his team is far from being where it needs to be.
“We’re not that far away, we’re really not,” Pim said of the Knights. “It’s still early, and we need to keep reminding ourselves of that. When we play well we look pretty good. We have to learn to carry it from game to game fundamentally and strategically.”