Hawks’ comeback against Van Meter ends on question mark

Sean Cordy - Correspondent
Alex Bice throws a pitch to a Van Meter player on Thursday, June 18. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/THE PERRY CHIEF

“Maybe we’ll see them at Principal Park.”

Woodward-Granger head coach Eric Evans gave that simple line of assurance and hope to meet again at the state tournament following a night that ended Thursday in complete chaos against Van Meter.

After lightning was first spotted in Granger just at 9:30 p.m., the Hawks (3-1) and Van Meter (3-0) spent some time hoping their second game of doubleheader action could resume to settle the score. All things considered, the Bulldogs looked to pull off one more win after walking off with a 5-4 victory earlier in the evening while the Hawks had just knotted the second game up 2-2 to push Game 2 into extra innings.

With the deluge of lightning flashes, the game was officially suspended at 10 p.m. with the hope that the game can continue another day. The schools will discuss options Friday to resume play.

Regardless of the abrupt ending that leaves an asterisk on the schedule, the two put on quite the show between the defending state champ and the rising hopeful Hawks.

Keeping the champs on their toes

The seventh inning has been popular for the Hawks in their opening week after completing two comebacks to start the season. That same magic was shared in the top of the inning when W-G took a 4-3 lead with Christian Husmann running in off a passed ball and Colby Tague pushing Bryce Achenbach through.

Those advancements were essentially erased once the Bulldogs punched through two of their own, getting runners on second and third base on two occasions to eventually win the game.

The story repeated itself in the second game as Achenbach doubled, and scored once again off Tague’s hit to bring the game 2-1 and end the shutout. Another wild pitch brought home Worth Henry for the tying run.

“That’s just pressure. When we start bunting and stealing guys on base, as a former pitcher [I know] it changes your mindset,” Evans said regarding the runs off Van Meter’s slips. “A little more pressure and you start having to move, and your defense is moving around. It changes. So we just got to get our guys in situations where we can push the envelope.”

It wasn’t just the bats and running that kept Van Meter in check though. The play in the field also pushed the Bulldogs to their limit, none more evident than in the sixth inning when two stolen base attempts were stopped.

Living on the edge

Though just enough was done to push the latter game into extra innings before the suspended play, Evans voiced frustration with the team’s dependency on making late plays — both in the game and in single moments.

“I tell our guys to try to get a guy to third with less than two outs. If we get a runner to third with less than two outs, percentages are in our favor that we’re going to score,” Evans said. “And it just seems like we’ve been doing that the seventh inning and we’ve squandered some early opportunities to do that.”

In the first game, the Hawks experienced a two-strike count eight times. Reese Jamison converted one for an RBI single. And Trevor Simmons drew a full count walk.

The second game, Van Meter forced another 11 two-strike counts. Four came in the seventh inning. Again, Reese Jamison got on base but the three other counts ended in strikeouts — two looking, one swinging. It was the times when the Hawks got ahead of the count which they found the most success. Evans noted in particular how the team watched too many fastballs run by Van Meter which threw strikes 64 percent of the time.

“The last inning, I gave hit-and-runs to Bryce and Worth. We’re watching too many fastballs. There was no one on and I go, ‘You’re gonna swing no matter where it is.’ They’re a great team. They have great pitchers that throw a lot of strikes. We watched too many. ‘I’m making you swing here.’ And what happened? Two base hits.”

More than the usual suspects

While the senior class had their share of highlights — Achenbach scoring in both games among them — the team’s rash of underclassmen also made major impacts.

“I’m proud of those underclassmen guys. Good approaches at the plate late there. They got a rhythm at the plate and you kinda let them do what they gotta do,” Evans said. “If you watch, Worth steps out and controls his breathing, and I think that’s why he’s able to come up and produce multiple times. And Colby is very fundamental. He’s gotten a lot stronger and he’s very confident.”

Henry had a three RBI play the previous night, and the junior’s composure held up again Thursday, as did Tague’s confidence at the plate working behind him.

Tague went 3-for-6 on the night, pushed through two batters, and scored once himself. Henry was 1-for-5, drew one walk, and scored in both games. As such a vital piece to the game’s outcomes, there was no doubt Henry thought they had a different outcome coming.

“I really honestly wish we could play them again or wish the (lightning) wouldn’t have rolled in. With our confidence, I think we would have won that game.”