Coming into Wednesday’s doubleheader against Charles City, the Waverly-Shell Rock baseball team knew it was going to be a highly-contest matchup against their Northeast Iowa Conference rival.
It was exactly that, as the Go-Hawks and Comets split the NEIC doubleheader. Waverly-Shell Rock took the opener 2-1, while Charles City bounced back in the second game, also winning 2-1.
The head Go-Hawk, Casey Klunder, had mixed feelings about how Waverly-Shell Rock played Wednesday night.
“In some ways, when you give up three runs, you feel like you should sweep the doubleheader,” Klunder said. “We had great pitching all night from Carson [Graven], Payton [Leonard] and Chance [Key]. The other side is that you only score three runs in a doubleheader, and we were lucky to get one run. We were not very competitive offensively tonight and ultimately, that cost us in game two.”
In the opener, both teams were held scoreless in the first inning, as it wasn’t until the bottom of the second frame when the Go-Hawks struck first. Carson Graven hit a single and made his way to second on another single by the designated hitter, Korbyn Dewey. After a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt by Pete McMillin, Graven was able to plate the first run of the game. It was the next at-bat when Dewey would score off of a single by Kurby Vowels, making it 2-0 with two innings complete.
Neither team found a way to score in the third frame, but the Comets were determined to start a rally in the top of the fourth. Charles City’s leadoff, JJ Ritter, started with a single and was later thrown out at first by Graven. His teammate, Cole Reams, followed next with another single. With two outs, Tait Arndt stepped up to the plate and did damage, as he hit a double, which scored Ritter, making it 2-1.
The Go-Hawks were unable to answer in the bottom of the frame, but their two runs in the second would prove to be enough, as Waverly-Shell Rock eventually took the opener, 2-1.
On the mound in game No. 1, Graven pitched all seven innings, allowed five hits and one earned run, walked one and fanned five.
Klunder was thrilled to see Graven have a good outing on the mound against the Comets.
“Carson did such a good job in game No. 1,” Klunder said. “With the wind blowing in, we couldn’t score a bunch for him. He didn’t need that. But, to hold them to one run, they are a good hitting team. That was the best he’s looked on the mound, and he was great tonight. It starts on the mound, and he was very good for us there tonight.”
Offensively, McMillin led the Go-Hawks, going 1-1 and bringing in one run. Vowels also earned one RBI, as he went 1-2 on the night.
For the nightcap of the doubleheader, both teams were scoreless through the bottom of the fifth, when the Go-Hawks put the Comets in a unique situation.
Chance Key drew a walk to start the inning, and Ben Buseman entered the game as Chance’s pinch runner. After Vowels put down the sacrifice bunt, Buseman got to second base and later advanced to third on a passed ball. With two outs, the Go-Hawks’ Kaden Dewey was walked and put the Comets’ defense in a manufactured pickle while stealing second base, with Buseman standing on third. While the Comets’ were focused on Dewey stealing second, Buseman was able to advance home and score for the Go-Hawks, who led 1-0 after five frames.
In the top of the sixth inning, Charles City was determined to get the equalizer. Arndt stepped up to the plate with one out and poked a single into the outfield, while Elliott Sinwell followed suit with another single that put Arndt on second base. Arndt was picked off the next play trying to steal third base, but Wyatt Stevenson kept the hitting alive for the Comets, as he got a single to score Sinwell. Chance Key struck out Atticus Parrott to escape the inning without any further damage, as the game was now tied at 1-1.
During the bottom of the sixth, the Go-Hawks’ Brodey Key led off with a single, and Brady Ramker entered as his pinch runner. Ramker stole second and made it to third on a fielder’s choice when Graven hit to the Comets’ shortstop, who elected to get the putout at first base. That was all the further Ramker would get, before the Comets got the final out of the inning, when McMillin popped up to Charles City’s shortstop, JJ Ritter.
Charles City found another way to score in the top of the seventh inning, as Ian Collins reached base on a Go-Hawk error. Collins advanced to second on a fielder’s choice off of Colton Slinger’s sacrifice bunt, but Slinger also reached base on another Go-Hawk error. Because of Waverly-Shell Rock’s overthrow at first base, Collins was able to make his way to third, while Slinger advanced to second. With just one out, Reams stepped up to the plate and hit a double, which scored Collins and brought in Slinger. However, Slinger was called out, as the Go-Hawks got the tag in time, as Vowels threw in the ball from right field to catcher Brodey Key.
For the Go-Hawks’ last chance at a victory, the started the inning with two outs, as Korbyn Dewey popped up to centerfield and Vowels attempted to bunt, but was thrown out at first. The next at-bat, Connor Havlovic hit a grounder to the Comets’ pitcher, Reams, who threw to their first baseman, Stevenson. However, the umpire ruled that Stevenson pulled his foot, so Havlovic was ruled safe at first. With their second chance, the Go-Hawks’ Kaden Dewey was walked to put two Go-Hawks on base with two outs for Payton Leonard. However, Reams was able to strike out Leonard, giving the Comets the 2-1 victory during the second game of the twinbill.
Leonard got the start on the mound and threw three innings, allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one. Chance Key pitched in relief for four innings, allowed seven hits, gave up two earned runs and tallied five strikeouts.
In the batter’s box, Kaden Dewey led the Go-Hawks, as he went 1-1 with one stolen base. Buseman and Ramker each recorded a stolen base.
On Thursday, June 13, the Go-Hawks travel to Forest City for a single-game contest, starting at 7:30 p.m. Waverly-Shell Rock will return to Hertel Field on Monday, June 17, as they host the Waukon Indians in another single-game matchup, beginning at 7 p.m. The Go-Hawks’ next twinbill is set against another NEIC rival on the road, as Waverly-Shell Rock takes on New Hampton on Wednesday, June 19 at 5 p.m.
With another strong slate of conference competition coming up for the Go-Hawks, Klunder knows it comes down to getting stronger, offensively.
“We have to be ready to go,” Klunder said. “If we are going to only score three runs against a one-loss conference team, it’s going to be a tough go. We are going to put too much pressure on our pitching. We were lucky to get out of here with one win tonight, especially the way we swung the bats. We are going to have to be much better, offensively. It just didn’t click for us tonight.”