By Bruce Karnick [email protected] After a COVID shortened season in 2020, amateur baseball is back in full swing for 2021. The Hastings Hawks opened their season at Veteran’s Park on Friday …
By Bruce Karnick
After a COVID shortened season in 2020, amateur baseball is back in full swing for 2021. The Hastings Hawks opened their season at Veteran’s Park on Friday against the Spring Valley Hawks. The opener did not go as planned, Spring Valley won 3-1. The biggest issue for early season amateur baseball is player availability. The high school guys that bring in new talent are still playing ball with their high school or Legion teams, the college players are still at college playing with their schools, and the older guys are still working their way into game shape. Amateur ball does not have a spring training and the players are not paid to play, so they have to find time on their own to work out and practice.
“Early season games almost always have the smallest rosters for the season,” Hawks Manager Shawn Matson explained. “We usually have 10-12 guys out of 25-30 that are available early in the season. That changes depending how well the school teams do in their playoffs.”
The Hawks versus Hawks game on Friday started off with State Representative Tony Jergens throwing the ceremonial first pitch. The funny thing about the first pitch participants, they always seem to over think the throw because they are worried about looking silly. Representative Jurgens did something few do, he actually made it from the mound to home plate, and the umpire was pretty forgiving calling it a strike.
After the game, Representative Jurgens shared his experience on social media. “I was honored to throw out the first pitch on Friday night for the Hastings Hawks Amateur Baseball season opener at Veterans Field in Hastings. I was relieved that the only thing I threw out was the ball.”
Amateur baseball games during the regular season fall under two categories, League/Section games that matter in the standings for playoffs and exhibition games, that mean nothing regarding playoff position. Teams will typically schedule 15-20 non-league games to give their guys a chance to see more live play. Spring Valley falls under the exhibition game, so it is a perfect opponent for the start of the season for the guys to knock some rust off.
After three innings of play, Spring Valley had the lead 3-1. The early game rust combined with the excitement of finally playing settled by the fourth inning and that is how the game ended. The Hawks beat the Hawks. The biggest issue for Hastings was leaving runners in scoring position. Hastings stranded 15 runners on base, twice, they had the bases loaded with one out and failed to score.
The bright side for Hastings was the pitching. Jordan Jeske logged the start throwing three solid innings. Jeske allowed no earned run on 66 pitches throwing, striking out six. Andrew Kemper appeared in two innings, allowed no earned runs on 24 pitches, striking out three and Nick Horsch finished the game on the mound, allowing no runs on 61 pitches while striking out seven.
The interesting piece was how Hastings had guys playing all over in positions they normally do not play. Two guys that normally pitch or play outfield ended up playing catcher, one was a lefty, which you almost never see. Three different pitchers took the mound, not because anyone was doing poorly, but because they all needed a chance to see some action. Horsch kept his getting hit by pitch streak alive, and it was an entertaining game to watch.
Sunday, the Hawks travelled to Hampton to take on the Cardinals. Hampton is part of the CCVL, but they are a Class B team while Hastings is a Class C team. The significance of the class is based on a points system created by the Minnesota Baseball Association.
“It’s nice to face a tough opponent early,” Matson said before the game. “I get to see where guys are at, the guys get to see where they are at, and then we know where the veterans can mix in with the younger guys when they get back from school.”
At Hampton, the Hawks jumped out to the early 1-0 lead with journeyman Rick Wager on the mound for Hastings, but the Cardinals stormed right back scoring eight unanswered runs over three innings. Wagner struggled in his first appearance for Hastings throwing 70 pitches in three innings allowing eight earned runs for an ERA of 24.00. Wagner did strike out two, but he also walked five. Douglas Nordine came into the game in relief and pitched five solid innings. Nordine threw 86 pitches, allowed two earned runs while striking out five.
“It was nice to have Douglas to be able to come in and stop the bleeding,” Matson explained after the game. “He held them where they were at and gave us a chance at the end. His command was great with all of his pitches, he did a great job of keeping the ball down in the zone and our defense made a couple of plays for him.”
After the pitching change, the Hawks offense woke up scoring one in the sixth inning to make the game an 8-2 affair in favor of Hampton. That’s when the Hawks put the pressure on. The seventh inning started with Ben Bundschu hitting a hard line drive for a double followed by Horsch hitting a ground ball to third that was misplayed by the Cardinals infielder. That error advanced Bundschu to third and allowed Horsch to reach safely. Jason Greeder hit a line drive single to score Bundschu and move Horcsh to second, then Jeske was walked to load the bases.
Big bat, Adam Medlicott came to the plate and after a solid at bat, was walked, scoring Horsch. Evan Khrin, who also has the power to poke one out followed Medlicott, but he struck out. Patrick Rough came through with a clutch line drive double clearing the bases before the inning ended. The score was now 8-7 Hampton.
Hampton managed to tack two more runs on between the seventh and the eighth to make the final 107, Cardinals over the Hawks.
The next chance to catch the Hawks in action is Mothers Day! Sunday, May 9th, at 2:00 p.m. against the Northfield Knights. Bring your mom to the game, the first 20 moms to stop by concessions get a free Carnation from Meloy Park Florist here in Hastings.
State Representative Tony Jurgens throws out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday when the Hastings Hawks hosted the Spring Valley Hawks. Photo by Troy Nordine