Hawks momentum slides in heartbreaking district final

Sean Cordy - Sports
W-G coach Eric Evans meets with Hawks batters during a Des Moines Christian break on July 22. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/THE PERRY CHIEF

The odds were stacked against them. Des Moines Christian (27-8) took a doubleheader in June over Woodward-Granger (23-8). Senior Joe Rhodes woke up with a sore back unsure if he'd be able to play. Lions fans showed up in spades in Granger to neutralize the Hawks' home field advantage in the district final Monday, July 22.

It came down to one run. Advantage Lions 6-5 for a trip to substate, delaying the Hawks' postseason aspirations for next year.

“No one's gonna want to play us next year,” W-G head coach Eric Evans said after the game.

Evans preached all season about teaching his young roster what momentum feels like, and it swung both ways Monday one too many times.

After a balk from Alex Bice sent in DMC's first run of the night, the Hawks rallied together for one of their signature big innings and were all but ready to leave with the W.

Combining for two hits out of the gate by Brandon Worley and Bryce Achenbach, W-G hit the Lions in the mouth en route to a five-run inning highlighted by a Reese Jamison two-RBI single. But the last at-bat would set the tone for the rest of the night as DMC's Kole Bradley struck Worley out looking.

W-G's defense carried the momentum the next two innings, forcing six consecutive outs. But the Lions matched that pace by retiring Hawks batters on strikes, ending the night with 11 total K's, nine of which came in the closing five innings to silence the Hawks dugout.

With Bradley and Bice in a straight duel over the course of five innings, DMC was waiting for the right moment to pounce and found a break in the defense in the sixth frame. It was then that they got the bases loaded and took advantage of two infield errors followed by an outfield collision between Jamison and Achenbach that let in the tie-breaking run 6-5.

Though Bradley turned in for the night in the bottom of the sixth, Andrew Fox kept the momentum up to hold the lead, only letting Rhodes on base with a single. Fox once again let just one runner on base in the seventh, ending the game with yet another strikeout for the save.

The Hawks left the game with just four hits, three of which came from that five-run inning. Instead of relying on getting on base with contact, it was a test of patience that got W-G on base seven times through walks.

“We knew we had to be patient and run their pitch count up and get the two top guys out of there,” Evans said. “We've known them. They're good, they're coached well. But we were patient at the plate. Proud of them, real proud of them. Fun summer.”

Achenbach and Rhodes were the only two to get on base via both a hit and walk. The latter's hit gave hope to keep the season alive but ultimately turned into his last at-bat with the green and gold.

“You never really think it's going to end until it does. I don't think it really set in until we were out there (after the game) and Coach said 'Thanks,'” Rhodes said. “There's no other place I'd rather lose.”

He was also sure to say that after watching the majority of the team develop as underclassmen, he's confident that the team moving forward will continue to grow. “Those guys are fighters. They're all fighters.”