Woodward-Granger baseball recap: Young Hawks flew late

Sean Cordy, Correspondent
Special to the Chief
Hawks players meet outside of the dugout during a regional game against ACGC on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Van Meter.

Just like the basketball program, Woodward-Granger baseball is still reeling from the loss of an entire unit. But now with two years of a new group playing together, the future may be on the horizon after suffering the school’s first losing season in almost a decade.

Looking Up

A seventh place finish in the West Central Conference is not the worst a team can do. There’s still four more ranks to fall before the bottom, but with a 6-14 league record and 10-15 overall finish marks a progressive low for the Hawks. But with a win percentage of .400, this marks the first losing season for the program since 2014. 

Since 2019, Woodward’s win totals have only fallen. Going from 23 to 18 to 14 and to 10 wins this year, the signs of a graduation cycle that hopes to turn around just like in 2015 when the Hawks started a streak of seven straight winning seasons.

A big focus moving forward is finding early momentum and keeping it. 

Before the last two weeks of the season, the Hawks couldn’t win more than two games in a row and even had a nine game losing stretch. But in the final weeks of the year, they went 4-1 to close the regular season and then parlayed that into two more postseason wins before losing to the state champion. Schedule variation certainly plays a role, but the Hawks showed they can get in a groove and salvaged the season from a higher fall.

Brody Nardini throws a pitch during a regional game against ACGC on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Van Meter.

Nardini Bros and Co.

During the team’s 6-1 stretch heading into the regional semifinals, Collin and Brody Nardini were at the height of their power. 

Brody would pick up two shutout wins in two starts against Ogden and West Central Valley, throwing 18 strikeouts in just 10.2 innings and allowing zero runs. He was 2-4 the rest of the season in eight starts.

In those seven total games, he was almost just as strong at the plate, racking up 17 hits in 29 at bats for a .586 batting average. Compare that to his season average of .404, it’s not a stretch to say Brody was on a whole other level for those final games of the season and a proof of concept that 2023 could have bigger things in store if that kind of play stays.

Collin Nardini gets ready at the plate during a regional game against ACGC on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Van Meter.

Collin’s 10 hits may pale in comparison but a seven game hitting streak is an accomplishment in its own right. He would also have one of his best days at the plate to help propel a 12-3 win thanks to his team-high four hits against the Chargers. And like his brother, also notched two wins from the mound. He was 2-2 the rest of the season as a starting pitcher.

The best of their hot performances? They still have one more season as Hawks.

Moving Forward

The Nardinis aren’t the only ones that can come back for 2023, though. In fact, Don David was the team’s only rostered senior this year. 

Don David takes off his batting gloves after making it to first base during a regional game against ACGC on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Van Meter.

The team’s fourth-ranked batter in total bases and batting average, and third in runs batted in, the two-year starter certainly leaves a gap at second base. But with 89 percent of at-bats returning, there’s an abundance of young talent that hopes to help move forward as a bonded unit.

Brody Nardini may have had the team’s hottest bat in the final stage of the season, but it was sophomore first baseman Sam Sejnoha that had the complete package from start to finish this year. On an at-bat basis, Sejnoha averaged .57 bases compared to Nardini’s .54 rate. The first baseman also held a .418 batting average and .489 on-base percentage, both team-leading rates. 

On the mound, sophomore Nick Rees was the only other pitcher not named Nardini to record a win. He was 2-2 overall. And though he didn’t pick up the win, eighth-grader Brody Worley was responsible for six strikeouts in three innings against Earlham, showing some of the DNA he shares with former all-conference ace Brandon Worley.

Sam Sejnoha races for home plate during a regional game against ACGC on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Van Meter.