By Brent Huelsmann
After the start of the season was delayed a few days, the Hornets finally opened up their 2017 campaign on Friday March 17. The Hornets started the season winning two of their first three games, including a marathon 11 inning affair on opening day.
The Hornets first game of the year, just wouldn’t end as Nashville finally came out on top after over three hours, 4-3 over Rockford Lutheran on Friday night. Senior hurler, Ryan Brink was on the mound to start for the Hornets, and kept the Crusaders offense out of rhythm all night. Nashville kicked off the scoring, as Ryan Brink grabbed the first RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly that scored Trevor Meier. The score would stay 1-0 until the fifth inning, when Hayden Heggemeier scored, doubling the Hornets lead to 2-0. The Hornets would add another run in the fifth, as Cody Bauza doubled home Andrew Kash, giving the Hornets a 3-0 lead
The Hornets would see their lead evaporate in the sixth as three, as Rockford Lutheran took advantage of miscues by the Hornets to get three runs to cross the plate.
With the game still tied after seven innings, another senior took over on the mound as Brogan Kemp got the call in relief. Brink ended a phenomenal night on the mound, as he spread four hits over six innings, without giving up an earned run. Brink struck out 13 batters in the game.
Kemp came in and continued the great pitching for the Hornets, as he worked three innings without giving up a hit, and struck out four. But the Hornets could not get take advantage of opportunities, and the score stayed tied as the teams headed to the 10th inning.
After three innings on the mound, Heggemeier came into the game in relief. Rockford Lutheran was able to load the bases in the top of the tenth inning, but Heggemeier got out of the jam, and the teams headed to the bottom half of the inning. In the bottom of the tenth, Nashville loaded the bases for the second straight inning, but again came away empty handed.
After Heggemeier got through a scoreless 11th, Meier came up to lead off the home half, and laced a triple into center field. With Meier at third, and one out, the Hornets would get the winning run, as an errant throw sailed over third base, allowing Meier to race home and slide under the tag, giving Nashville a 4-3 win on Opening Day.
After the game, Meier talked about his thoughts in the final moments. “I’m thinking oh crap. Coach is yelling go go. I better get my butt to home. Everyone was telling me to get down, slid for it and next thing you know I’m getting tackled.”
Coach Chad Malawy had his thoughts after the game. “Handshakes and highfives man. Baseball, sometime that’s what it is about at the end of the day. You can’t always do everything right, and you can’t always be the hero, and sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce that way as it didn’t in that inning where we threw it around a little bit and gave them some runs. But at the end of the day, it’s handshakes and highfives and you’ve got to learn to enjoy those wins when you get them.”
The Hornets were the benefit of some fantastic defensive plays in the game, up the middle, and Malawy talked about the defense after the game. “We’re good up the middle. You throw Hayden out in center. We’re good. That’s our strength.”
At the plate, the Hornets finished with just four hits in the game. Heggemeier, and Jake Heck each finished with a single in the ballgame. Bauza and Meier each had an extra base hit, as Bauza had a double, and Meier had the triple that set up the walk-off win. Although the Hornets had just one hit, there was plenty of traffic on the basepaths as the Hornets drew 11 walks in the win. Kash, Bauza, Brink, Jacob Woodrome, Heck, Austin Anderson, Kemp, and Meier all took at least one walk in the game.
On the mound, Heggemeier got the win with two scoreless innings in relief. Heggemeier walked three and struck out three in the win. Overall the Hornets pitchers struck out 20 batters in the win.
A quick turnaround for both teams on Saturday as the teams were back in action. It would be the third game in less than 24 hours for the Crusaders as they defeated Okawville 3-1 in their first game on Saturday.
Rockford Lutheran would exact revenge on the Hornets, winning the second game of the series 6-2.
Rockford Lutheran got the scoring started taking advantage of mistakes by the Hornets to take a 4-0 lead in the second inning. The Crusaders would add on to their lead in the fifth, scoring two runs to make it 6-0.
The Hornets would get on the board, as Heggemeier notched a RBI on a groundout to cut the Rockford Lutheran advantage to 6-1. The Hornets would score again an inning later as Brink brought home Bauza to cut the Crusaders lead to 6-2. The Hornets would not make a comeback in the seventh as they dropped the game, 6-2.
After pitching and defense were key factors in the Hornets first game, Coach Malawy said game two raised some question marks. “It just raises a lot of red flags for our team. Definitely some question marks.Just some question marks, with the lineup, juggling some people around. Just struggled in all three phases today.”
The Hornets finished again with just four hits in the game, two of which came off the bat of Brink. Heggemeier and Cameron Parker each finished 1-3 in the game.
On the mound, Kash got the start, and went two innings. Kash gave up three hits, four runs, only one of which was earned, and struck out just one batter. Kash walked four. Woodrome came in in relief and gave the Hornets four innings, in which he only gave up three hits. Woodrome gave up two runs, none of which were earned, and struck out five. Todd Jahnke pitched a scoreless seventh inning in the loss, and gave up one hit.
In their third game of the season, the Hornets had their best offensive day of the season, as they cranked out 10 hits in a 3-2 win over the Trico Pioneers on March 20.A comeback win, the Hornets needed a late rally to come away with the win.
Trico scored early in the contest, taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning. In the fourth, the Pioneers would double their lead to 2-0 over the Hornets. Trico could not hold the lead, as the Hornets scored two in the sixth, and one in the seventh to take the win.
On the mound, Kemp pitched all seven innings for Nashville. Kemp gave up six hits, and one earned run while striking out six. At the plate Nashville was led by Heggemeier who finished 2-4 with 2 RBIs. Bauza also finished 2-4 in the win. Both Brink and Cameron Parker each went 1-4 with a run scored in the game. Woodrome, Heck, Meier, and Kash notched the four other hits for Nashville, as Austin Anderson scored the lone other run for the Hornets.
The Hornets record is 2-1.