by Brian Schommer
Special to the Star Gazette
The Hastings Hawks are heading into the 2015 Section 1B playoffs beginning Sunday, Aug. 9, and they have nowhere to look but up. As the number six seed of six teams, the Hawks drew the third-seeded Dundas Dukes in the first round. The Dukes come into the series a top-10-ranked team in the state and they are loaded with talent, including three players with professional baseball experience.
“We have three teams in the top 10 in the state in our section,” manager Shawn Matson said. “Whoever comes out of our section and advances to the state tourney will earn it.”
The first pitch will take place at Dundas Memorial Park at 2 p.m. The same two teams will then play at 8 p.m. at Veterans Park in Hastings on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Should a third game be necessary in the best of three series, the finale will be on Friday, Aug. 14, back in Dundas at 8 p.m.
The Hawks, 11-17 on the season, split their regular season final weekend with a convincing 11-6 win over the Ellsworth Hubbers on Friday, July 31, and a close but not close enough 6-4 loss to the Red Wing Aces on Sunday, Aug. 2.
“We played overall pretty good baseball the last couple games, but need to step it up another notch or more if we are going to be competitive in the playoffs,” Matson shared.
Against Ellsworth, the Hawks lit up the Hubbers pitching staff for 11 hits, including three homeruns and a pair of doubles.
“Going into the game, we had one home run all season,” Matson said with a laugh. “We tripled our output in one game.”
Going deep for the Hawks were first-year players Cody Marek (who also had a double) and Dom Theis as well as Beau Jernberg. Theis and Jernberg added solid base hits during the contest. Starting pitcher Jaryd Marks had a pair of hits as did Eric Harris (a double and a single). Nick Tuckner also added single for the cause.
“We hit the ball solid all night long,” Matson said.
Marks pitched five complete innings, giving up two earned runs. He was then relieved by Max Bundschu, who threw three scoreless innings. Jordan Jeske struggled on the mound for the Hawks, going one inning and issuing four earned runs, but the Hawks bats more than covered the spread for the local nine.
The Aces gave the Hawks fits in the first inning, putting up four runs on four hits, a hit batter and an error. The Hawks settled in after that allowing only two more runs the remainder of the game, but the hole was just a bit too deep with Hastings coming up short by the score of 6-4.
“We played very good baseball after the first inning,” Matson shared. “We just couldn’t quite get up the hill, but again, we stayed in the game.”
Cole Jernberg led the Hawks at the plate going two for four with a pair of RBIs and he also reached on an error. Jeske, Marks, Marek, Harris, Ben Bundschu, Max Bundschu and Mikey Junker all added hits for the Hawks, who tallied nine hits during the contest. Unfortunately for the Hawks, all but one was of the base hit variety with Marks collecting the only extra base hit with a deep double.
“We had chances again,” Matson said, “but we just couldn’t get the hits when we needed them.”
This has been an ongoing story for the young Hawks this season.
Ben Bundschu tossed six innings for the Hawks, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits while striking out one and walking two. Beau Jernberg pitched the final three innings for the Hawks, giving up two runs on three hits and one walk.
“We outhit Red Wing and our pitching staff kept us in the game,” Matson said. “We just have to find a way to get the hits when they matter.”
With the playoffs right around the corner, the Hawks will have to figure out how to do this sooner versus later. For any additional information on the Hastings Hawks playoff schedule, go to www.hastingshawks.com.