Hiland Baseball

Hawks take all the luck they can get in downing Irish 3-1 at Canal Park

Hiland uses small ball and takes advantage of three errors to rack up a win over the Irish of St. V

There’s something about Canal Park that seems to suit the Hiland Hawks baseball team to a tee.

The Hawks traveled north to Akron to the home of the Akron Rubber Ducks, the Cleveland Indians’ AA affiliate, to face Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on Friday, April 20.

Hiland has played four games at Canal Park against very good opponents, all against much bigger schools, and the Hawks have come away with a 3-1 record and even played great in their loss.

The most recent win was a 3-1 thriller that went to the wire as the Hawks plated a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to improve to 12-2 while St. V dropped to 6-3.

“Our kids love playing here,” said Hiland head coach Chris Dages, who picked up his first win at Canal Park in his rookie campaign after toiling at the JV level for a decade. “This is one we circle on the calendar because we do play some top teams here, and we always seem to come in here ready to play. We did again tonight, and we needed to win this game.”

The Irish’s Jack Mullin and Hiland’s Cordell Miller matched wits and arms on the mound, and each turned in a remarkable performance to give their team every opportunity to win the game.

Mullin was perfect in the first inning, and while Cordell Miller allowed two walks in the opening frame, his twin brother Cameron Miller helped him out by gunning down a runner attempting a steal to keep the slate clean through one.

Neither team did anything offensively in the second inning, but Hiland put two on with an out in the third inning when Michael Miller singled and Andy Miller drew a walk. However, Mullin got Ryan Hershberger on a routine fly out to right to end the threat.

The Irish turned right around in the bottom and put two on with one out, but Cordell Miller got a strikeout and a fly out to end  that threat, and the two teams were locked up in a scoreless duel through three.

Both teams went silently through the fourth inning, and Michael Miller ignited Canal Park with a laser triple down the left-field line with two outs. However, Mullin again came through, getting Andy Miller looking to end the inning.

An error by Michael Miller at second opened the door for St. V in the bottom of the fifth, and Mullin helped himself by lashing a double to the gap in right center, but Cordell Miller made the defensive play of the game to stave off what would have been two runs for the Irish. Jacob Connery hit an absolute pea shot up the middle, but mostly out of self-defense, Cordell Miller got his glove on it, redirecting it right to Michael Miller, who grabbed it and threw out Connery to end the inning.

Hiland would finally break the ice in the sixth, thanks to the generosity of the Irish defense.

After Hershberger was thrown out at first to open the inning, Cameron Miller reached on an error at short by Jared Lloyd. Cordell Miller lined a single to center. Damien Kandel’s chopper to the right side advanced both runners a base, and then Stevie Beachy hit a slow groundball to Lloyd, who charged, gloved and threw, but his throw was wide, going for an error and allowing Hiland to take a 1-0 lead.

Mullen would get Derek Burke swinging, but Hiland had struck first.

That lead didn’t last three outs.

Miller threw a one-out walk to Chris Schar, and a passed ball later, Garrett Bischof laced a shot to right center to plate the tying run.

Kandel came on to record a pair of easy outs to send the game to the seventh tied at 1-1.

It didn’t stay locked up for long, and this time Hiland would play some serious small ball and again take advantage of the Irish defense.

Tyler Kline hustled his way to a bunt single with a head-first dive into first base, and Michael Miller’s sacrifice bunt was fielded by Mullin, who for some reason didn’t throw to first. Andy Miller then laid down a sacrifice bunt, and he too reached on an error to load the bases with nobody out.

Once again Mullen dug deep and blew away Hershberger for the first out. Cameron Miller then grounded to third, and St. V. Came home for the force. Now the bases were loaded, but there were two outs, and Mullin was on the verge of somehow escaping very dire straights.

“We struggled early on to get our bunts down, but when it came down to crunch time, we really did a nice job of getting the job done, and that set the table for us in the last inning,” Dages said.

Down in the count 1-2, Cordell Miller lofted a long fly ball down the right-field line. Irish right fielder Zacc Markulis charged after it, made a diving attempt but came up empty as the double plated a pair of runs for a 3-1 Hiland lead.

Now down a pair and down to their final at-bat, the Irish fought back. With one out Markulis drew a walk. Kandel recorded a huge strikeout, and Mullin lined a two-out single to right center to put the tying run at first base. Connery then banged a sharp grounder up the middle, but Andy Miller ran to his left, snagged it and stepped on second to end the game in favor of the Hawks.

Neither team could generate much offense as Hiland out-hit St. V 6-to-4, but half of Hiland’s hits were not exactly hammered.

On this night it was the pitcher’s time to shine. Miller went a strong 5 and one-third innings, allowing three hits and one unearned run, striking out three while dancing around six walks. Mullin was even a tick better, going a complete-game seven innings, allowing six hits, recording seven strikeouts and walking three. All three of the runs he allowed were of the unearned variety.

Kandel got the final five outs to get the win, giving up one hit, one walk and striking out one.

Bischof and Mullin each had two hits for all four of the Irish knocks while Cordell Miller had two hits and Michael Miller rapped out three hits for the Hawks.

“I thought both of our pitchers did a nice job of adjusting to a pretty small strike zone,” Dages said. “Cordell battled the whole game. He put a lot of runners on base, but he stayed composed and kept attacking the zone.”

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