by Brian Schommer
Special to the Star Gazette
The Hastings Hawks amateur baseball team closed out their 2015 season with a 7-3 loss at the hands of the Dundas Dukes on Friday, Aug. 11, at Veterans Park in Hastings. Dundas moves on in the Section 1B playoffs facing the Elko Express in a best of three series which began on Sunday.
The Red Wing Aces and Miesville Mudhens are battling in the other bracket of the section series. The Hens defeated the Aces by the score of 8-0. Section 1B is arguably one of the strongest overall sections in the State of Minnesota Class B Baseball with the Mudhens, Dukes and Express all ranked in the top five teams in the state.
Against Dundas, the Hawks got things started on the right foot, going up 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning when shortstop Eric Harris scored after being walked, advancing to second on a Beau Jernberg single. Harris moved to third on a Jaryd Marks fly out and scored when Jordan Jeske grounded out to the first baseman. After that, however, the run scoring went in favor of the Dukes, who mounted a 7-1 lead by top of the sixth inning.
“Walks and errors will beat you every time,” manager Shawn Matson said. “We had five of each.”
The Hawks did mount a mini rally in the bottom of the sixth which started off with Harris and Jernberg hitting back-to-back singles. Marks grounded out, advancing Harris and Jernberg. Jeske then singled, scoring Harris. Tony Hammes reached first on a fielders choice, scoring Jernberg, but the threat ended with Dom Theis grounding out. Dundas finished the game with seven runs on seven hits and no errors while the Hawks line read three runs on seven hits and five errors. Besides the walks and errors, another factor accounting for the Dukes added run tally was three doubles at key times with men on base.
“That is something we just couldn’t do most of the season,” Matson said. “Hats off to Dundas for getting it done when they had the chances. They are a veteran club and it shows.”
Cole Jernberg got the nod on the hill for the Hawks, going six complete innings giving up seven runs (six of which were earned) on five hits, five walks and one strikeout. Jernberg also fought some control issues with four wild pitches. Dennis Reinhardt threw three innings of relief, allowing no runs on two hits, no walks and a strikeout.
“We are a young team,” Matson said, “but I like the core we built this year.”
The Hawks finished with an overall record of 11 wins and 20 losses and very close to the cellar of the Classic Cannon Valley League.
“We knew from the start that this was going to be a rebuilding year,” Matson said.
Hastings lost some veteran leadership, solid batters and two key pitchers during the off-season and had a totally new look with 12 new players.
“We had guys like Hunter Hillstrom, Tony Hammes and Brian Amble, who are all Hastings guys, but have not played competitive baseball in four years come in and play really good ball,” Matson said. “Cody Marek and Mikey Junker just graduated from Hastings High School. It is a big jump and adjustment from high school baseball to this level and both of them did some great things.”
The Hawks were also plagued by a couple key losses during the regular season as DH/pitcher TJ Galenti had to undergo season-ending surgery in June. Nick Horsch was off to a great start on the mound until a nagging hamstring injury put him on the shelf since early July. Perhaps the biggest loss for the Hawks was first baseman/pitcher Spencer Diedrich, who had to return to Duluth to take a summer class at the end of June and then was picked up by the Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League. Diedrich was hitting .485 with an on-base percentage of .561 and led the team on the season with doubles (nine).
“I can’t say I am happy with our record or how we finished the season,” Matson said, “but I can’t say that I think the future is hopeless, either. I like what the future looks like for us.”
The Hawks hope to add a some talent over the off-season and having some key players return healthy should increase the chances for a much improved 2016.
The much stronger local presence the Hawks had this year compared to years past which is exciting, according to Hastings Hawks Board of Directors President Bruce Karnick.
“I like the way the team is going,” Karnick said. “Our crowds were better this year and there seemed to be a lot of younger kids at the games. Many of them were wearing their Hastings baseball and softball uniforms. That is exciting.”
Karnick also expressed the need for new ideas, new blood and new volunteers to help the Hawks organization grow.
“This organization has been going since 1982 and over the years have had some great people helping out,” he said. “Over the last couple years, a few of our longtime board members made the decision to retire, so we need new people to step up to the plate.”
The Hawks board meets once a month, generally on a weeknight evening, and is the operational arm of the Hastings Hawks baseball organization. The Hawks also need volunteers who are available to help with running the concession stand, in-game promotions, marketing and other game day and seasonal type aspects of amateur baseball.
“I encourage anyone who may remotely be interested in helping out in advancing the cause of local amateur baseball in Hastings to email me at email@example.com and we can chat more,” Karnick said.
Another important key to maintaining a successful amateur baseball program is support from the business community. Karnick and Matson both agreed that the level of business support from the community has continued to thrive, which can be show by the most recent addition to Veterans Park — the new press box.
“We have great support from the local businesses who help us make coming to a Hawks game a fun experience,” Karnick said. “The overall atmosphere at the ball park definitely took a jump this year” Matson added.