It wasn’t the best start for the Hillsboro Hawks as they opened their JCAA conference game at home against DeSoto on Thursday. The Hawks were down three runs before they even came to the plate. Thankfully, DeSoto wouldn’t score again, and the Hawks squeaked out a 4-3 victory to improve to 6-3 on the season.
With Michael Brewer on the mound, the first batter was retired on strikes. But Brewer walked the next batter, and then a base hit put runners at first and second. Another walk loaded the bases, but Brewer came back to strike out the next batter for the second out. Unfortunately, DeSoto’s #6 hitter doubled to center field to clear the bases and give the Dragons a 3-0 lead. Brewer struck out the next batter, but the damage had been done. “I wasn’t locating my pitches,” Brewer admitted. “After that, I just settled in and got comfortable.”
Head coach Kevin Lucas said Brewer may have been trying to do too much. “I feel part of his struggle in the first was just him trying to overthrow. After they scored the three, I think it woke him up a little, and he really locked in the rest of the way.”
His teammates would have some work to do as they came to bat in the bottom of the first. With one out, Logan Warren reached on an error, and Brewer dumped a single into left field. Another error, this time on a Christian Hancock grounder, loaded the bases. After the second out of the inning, DeSoto’s third error would allow two runs to score when an Isack Hamilton grounder was misplayed. It was now a one run game.
With Brewer settled in on the mound, it was now just a matter of the Hawks getting the equalizer and then moving ahead. They would do both in the next two innings. In the second, Garrett Pinkley would walk, and Grant Beck sacrificed him to second. Mark Moore advanced Pinkley to third with a grounder to first, and then Warren would come through with a ringing double to left. Pinkley crossed the plate, and the Hawks had tied it 3-3.
In what would be the final scoring of the day, Hillsboro would go ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the third. The inning didn’t really start as if the Hawks would generate much. Hamilton was hit by a pitch sandwiched between two strikeouts. But Hamilton did steal second and then was replaced by Dayton Hoelter as a courtesy runner with two outs. Pinkley would take a 2-1 pitch to left for a base hit, Hoelter crossed the plate, and the Hawks would have a lead they’d never give up.
In fact, after giving up that double in the first inning, Brewer retired 18 straight batters. No walks, no hits, no hit batters, no errors…nothing. He would have to leave the game with two outs in the seventh because of pitch count. Warren came in, threw two pitches, got a groundout, and Hillsboro had the win.
Brewer would strike out 12. His two walks, three runs allowed, and two hits given up all occurred within the first six batters he faced. DeSoto nearly had another hit with two outs in the third, but Pinkley made a diving stop to his left to smother a grounder at second, and was able to get up and make the throw to Warren to get the third out. Pinkley, who’s natural position is catcher, feels pretty comfortable at second. “I’m used to keeping the ball in front of me, so it’s nice at second to be able to knock it down and still have time for the throw,” he said. Pinkley had a strong game, driving in the go ahead run with one of Hillsboro’s five hits, scoring a run, and drawing a walk. He said he was happy with his performance, but he’s got more to give. “It was one of my better defensive games, and I had a few solid hits, but I know I can do more offensively.”
Coach Lucas is very aware of the contribution that Pinkley has made. “Garrett has been doing some really good things as of late,” he said. “The last few games he’s had some big hits to drive runners in or get things started for us. He’s been playing some pretty solid defense at second and also behind the plate when we need him.”
Brewer had a base hit, but most of the offense was generated from Warren, who went three-for four and reached base each at bat for the Hawks. His two doubles were proof of a new approach he has lately embraced. “I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate, thinking too much, and being too picky,” he confessed. “I changed my mindset to just attack on any good pitches I see early in the at bat, and it has helped me a lot.” Warren did not look at or swing and miss at any strike thrown his way on Thursday. “I was feeling pretty good,” he said. “I was trying to be aggressive and was looking to drive the ball wherever they put it across the plate. We have been hitting really well, but tonight we struggled a bit. Everyone has their bad games, and hopefully we come out hitting like we normally do for our next game.”
Coach Lucas agreed. “Our offense had been pretty good the last few games leading up to today,” he said after the game. “I’m not too concerned. I think it was just one of those days which will happen. You just hope they don’t happen very often. ” He also said that Warren is a hard worker. “He’s done some really good things for us this year, but it doesn’t show by his average. He works hard in the cages during practice, so it was good to see him get such good results. It was a great time to break out, and hopefully he can keep things going.”
The Hawks will have some time off before their next game. Hillsboro will host the Perryville Pirates next Thursday, April 18. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.