Beating a team three times in a season is never easy but, the Nashville Hornets are headed back to the Sectional after defeating two Southern Illinois River to River Conference rivals on their way to a Regional Championship. The Hornets had to defeat Sparta, and DuQuoin to earn a trip back to the sectional. The Hornets were eliminated last year in the Sectional Championship by DuQuoin.
In their first game of the Regional, the Hornets scored early and were able to defeat Sparta for the third time this season 5-1. The Hornets got two runs in each of the first two innings, highlighted by Brogan Kemp’s first home run of the season in the second inning. Ryan Brink kept Sparta’s offense in check throughout the game as he pitched seven innings, and gave up just one unearned run. Brink finished with nine strikeouts in the win. At the plate, Brady Bultman finished with two hits and a RBI to lead the Hornets in the ballgame. Kemp finished with a home run, and two runs in the ball game. Hayden Heggemeier, Austin Anderson and Andrew Kash each added a hit in the win. Jaris Dalman did not record a hit, but finished with a RBI and a run scored in the game. Nick Krummrich scored a run as a courtesy runner in the win.
After the game coach Chad Malawy talked about his team’s performance, “it’s always tough to beat a team three times, but today started on the mound for us with Brink, he was good today with a tight strike zone. He had good composure, and he made pitches when he had to.” Malawy went on to talk about his team’s defensive miscues in the game, “we’ve got to be able to make the plays, and I think most of our errors were routine ground balls, or routine playing catch plays, and you cannot do that this time of year, or that’s an easy recipe for a early exit but fortunately for us we got some big hits, and we were able to capitalize on them not handling the ball well.”
The win for Nashville set up a rematch of last year’s Sectional Championship against DuQuoin. Although the Indians ended the Hornets season last year, Nashville hadn’t had any trouble with DuQuoin this season. The Hornets had already defeated DuQuoin twice earlier this year. The Hornets defeated DuQuoin 10-1 in DuQuoin on April 12, and defeated the Indians again 6-1 on April 25. The Regional Championship was much closer, as Nashville trailed 3-1 after four innings of play. The Hornets’ offense broke out in the fifth, as the Nashville took advantage of errors to plate five runs in the inning. The Hornets took a 6-3 lead with just two innings of baseball left. DuQuoin’s best chance to tie the game came in the seventh inning, as the Indians loaded the bases. Nashville was able to shut the door, giving up just one run, giving the Hornets the Regional Championship.
“They made us work for all 21 outs, and we’ll take a win,” said Malawy after the game. Malawy went on to talk about his team taking the lead in the fifth inning, “it was some aggressive baserunning, we had first and third there, and we were hoping to get picked off and make them handle the ball. Fortunately for us, we worked hard on that play, and it translated into two runs for us.”
On the mound, Kemp started the game for Nashville, but went just two innings. Kemp gave up just on ehit, but walked three batters, and was charged with two earned runs. Austin Anderson came in to the game in the third inning, and pitched five innings. Anderson gave up just one earned run, and struck out six batters. At the plate, the Hornets were led by Heggemeier, who hit the ball hard, all three times coming away with two hits, two RBIs and a run scored. Dalman also added a hit, two RBIs, and a run scored in the win. Brink notched two hits for the Hornets, while Cody Bauza, Anderson, Kemp, and Kash each finished with one hit.