Prep Baseball: Heritage School takes control of series, win opener
By DOUG GORMAN
The Heritage School Hawks may not earn any style points for the way they played at times Friday in their second round GISA opener against visiting Citizens Christian.
Then again, the only thing that mattered was the final result.
“It’s about surviving,” said Heritage head coach Lynn Huffstickler. “We have seen their best pitcher, so hopefully we can come out here tomorrow and take care of business, and move on.”
Surviving is exactly what the Hawks did as Tyler Nix became Heritage School's third pitcher of the game, getting a strikeout to end the contest after the Patriots loaded the bases in the seventh.
The two teams meet again Saturday at 12 p.m. A third game, if necessary, would follow about 30 minutes later.
(To view photos from Game No. 1, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports / Baseball for the Photo Gallery.)
The Hawks built a 5-0 lead after the third inning, and then held off the Patriots’ rally attempts to steal game one.
Citizens Christian was its own worst enemy late in the game, leaving the bases loaded in the last three innings despite generating one run in the sixth and two in the seventh as part of their rally attempt.
The Hawks’ defense also came up with some key plays to squelch a couple of those rallies by the Patriots.
Left-fielder Patrick McKee threw out a base runner in the fifth trying to score on a errant throw that made its way into the outfield, and Candler Rich made the catch of the game from center field when ran in, dove and grabbed the ball before it hit the ground.
“We have great outfielders,” Huffsticker said. “I have said this all along, Candler is the best GISA center fielder in the state.”
Heritage School finished the game with 10 hits, but did most of its damage in the first and third innings.
The Hawks scored the first two runs of the game when Rich drew a walk to lead off Heritage School's half of the first inning. McKee then ripped a triple to drive home Rich. Nix grounded out but heads up base running by McKee allowed him to score the second run of the game and give Nix the RBI.
The extra base hits continued for the Hawks in the third inning, leading to three more runs and the 5-0 lead. McKee started the offensive fireworks in the third with a one-out double and scored when Nix picked up his second RBI with a triple.
Luke Crook added the Hawks’ third hit in a row when he belted a single to drive in Nix. Mack Wilkins, who started the game on the mound for the Hawks, helped is own cause with the last RBI of the inning with a hit to score courtesy runner David Bread.
Wilkins picked up the win from the mound, going 5 2/3 innings and looking sharp, especially early.
“It was good to see him get the win, when he didn’t have his best stuff,” Huffsticker said.
The Patriots began the game with a lead-off single from Caleb Wright, but Wilkins and the Hawks got out of the inning with a double play after Rich caught a fly ball and threw back to second to get the base runner who was leaning too far off the bag.
Wilkins finished with five strikeouts through five innings. Although Wilkins hit Ethan Carter in the second, he recovered with two strikeouts.
Citizens Christian scored its first run of the game in the top of the sixth when Hunter Pate smacked a double. He then scored on Zack Ray’s single to trim the Hawks’ lead to 5-1.
Heritage School scored its last run of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Brad Mackie produced a one-out single and later scored when Crook coaxed a two-out walk with the bases loaded.
The Patriots put a scare into the Heritage School faithful in last inning as Hunter Pate ripped a two-run homer to cut the lead to 6-3.
Nix led the way for the Hawks with a 3-for-4 performance. In addition to his triple, he also had singles in the fifth and sixth innings. McKee was 2-for-3 with his triple and double. He also reached once on a walk. Crook also had two singles. He also reached on a walk.
Pate’s double and home run led the Patriots’ five-hit attack.
Both teams put at least one base runner on base in every inning but the second when each went down in order for the only time in the game.
Heritage School appeared poised to put the game out of reach in the fifth when Nix and Crook started the inning with back-to-back singles, but three straight strikeouts ended the Hawks’ threat.
“We are going to go after it tomorrow, and see what happens,” Huffstickler said.
Huffstickler plans to send Brian McKinney to the mound in the second game of the series.
With a pitching rotation that goes five players deep, Huffstickler likes the Hawks’ chances.
“Tyler (Nix) can comeback when we need him, and we will go from there,” Huffstickler said.
Heritage School enters the second game of the series with a 18-4 record.