The last time Woodward-Granger (23-7) faced Pleasantville (18-16), the Hawks took a doubleheader in June using a steady stable of pitchers. On Tuesday, July 16, that role fell almost entirely on W-G ace Brandon Worley backed up by a rolling offense as the Hawks took a 10-5 win to advance to Saturday's Class 2A District 12 final against Des Moines Christian (25-8).
Worley truly set the tone for the evening, forcing three straight outs to open the game, tossing two of his eight strikeouts on the night.
“He's around the zone and in high school baseball, if you're around the zone with a defense that will field the ball, [things are going to go well],” W-G coach Eric Evans said.
Carrying the momentum set from the mound, the Hawk bats got moving with full force to take a 3-0 lead thanks in part to a two-run double from Worth Henry. Pacey Moats also ran in for a run, grabbing home off a wild pitch. He's now scored in five of the last eight games and has really come alive.
“He's an aggressive swinger,” Evans said of the rising left fielder. “He barrels it up most of the times so he's a nice addition that maybe we didn't have at the beginning of the year. But the season's in segments and at the end here he got hot, so I'm just rolling with the hot hand really. He does his job.”
The Trojans responded with three runs over the next two innings, taking advantage of a number of mishaps from Jay Dorenkamp down the third base line. He ended the night with three errors. That hasn't stopped the team's faith in him.
“Everybody wants to be part of this. So when they get their chance, some of them put a little pressure on them,” Evans said. “But like I told (Jay), 'If you're in there, we trust you. And if you mess up, it's on us. So we trust that you're the best guy for that spot right now.”
But the Hawks would one-up their guests with another four paces to hold a 7-3 lead.
In the two-spot, Moats scored his second run of the game. Reese Jamison and Joe Rhodes would also finish with two runs apiece to round out the top three of the order grabbing six runs total.
On the opposite end, Worley's arm continued to send Trojans to the dugout, throwing perfect innings in the top of the fourth and fifth. It was not until the top of the sixth that Pleasantville scored again, grabbing a run from rare a wild pitch and just the fifth hit allowed on the night.
“It's just like any other game,” Worley added, not phased by the postseason spotlight. “No different here.”
Worley didn't just show up on the rubber, he also showed patience on the receiving end of the pitch. He accounted for three of the team's five walks on the night including once with bases loaded to drive in Rhodes for the night's final run.
“I noticed the pitcher had been throwing a lot of balls so I was just waiting for my pitch and I'll take a walk any day,” Worley said.
After he notched 90 pitches with two outs remaining, Jay Dorenkamp came in for the save, striking out the final batter of the night. Worley finished with eight K's and allowed two earned runs on five hits and one walk, throwing strikes on 74 percent of pitches. The Hawks forced the Trojans hands, sending out four pitchers.
For the twelfth time this season, the Hawks posted double-digit on the scoreboard. They are now 11-1 in such games. The last time W-G allowed 10 or more points came against Saturday's opponent Des Moines Christian which took its meeting against Madrid 6-0 on Tuesday.
“The one thing I like the most is they weren't too excited about the win because they expected it,” Evans said. “So that was cool to see the cultural change from being ecstatic to win a playoff game to now like, 'Okay, on to the next one.'”
W-G will take on the Lions at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20 in Granger.