For the six seniors on the Waverly-Shell Rock baseball team, playing one of their final regular season games at Hertel Field is bittersweet.
But, the game’s outcome was more sweet than it was bitter, as the Go-Hawks defeated Vinton-Shellsburg on Tuesday night, 8-7, sending out Connor Havlovic, Adam Hein, Pete McMillin, Malcolm Newell, Carter Langreck and Kurby Vowels out with a win.
Waverly-Shell Rock head coach Casey Klunder said that was the game plan coming into Tuesday night.
“The most important thing was that we played pretty well and sent our seniors out with a win tonight [Tuesday],” Klunder said. “We got every senior in the ballgame, and they all played well.
“Those are guys that have dedicated four and five years and probably more going back to junior high and travel teams, into our program. You want to send them out with a win, and I am glad that we were able to do that tonight.”
The Vikings came out right away in the top of the first inning, as they put up two runs. Payton Haefner led off with a single and made it to second on a wild pitch. Quin Cornell made it on base by a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a Go-Hawk error, which allowed Haefner to score. Charlie Dudley drew the hit-by-pitch, stole second and scored on Cameron Karr’s single. After the top of the first, the Vikings posted a 2-0 lead over the Go-Hawks.
The bottom of the first inning and the second inning were scoreless for both teams. In the bottom of the third, the Go-Hawks were able to tie up the game at 2-2. Vowels started the frame with a single, but was later caught stealing third base for the first out of the inning. Havlovic reached base on the Viking error, stole second and was brought in by Payton Leonard’s single. After a fielder’s choice, wild pitch and Viking error, Leonard also scored a run for the Go-Hawks.
After no answer from Vinton-Shellsburg in the top of the fourth, the Go-Hawks would grab their first lead of the game in the bottom of the inning. Korbyn Dewey, Waverly-Shell Rock’s designated hitter, reached base on a Viking error and advanced two bases on Carson Graven’s single. McMillin then hit the sacrifice fly to bring in Dewey for the go-ahead run, making it 3-2, Go-Hawks after four innings.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Waverly-Shell Rock would get five insurance runs, making it 8-2. Leonard began the Go-Hawks’ rally with a single and advanced to third on Brodey Key’s single. Langreck’s single scored Leonard and put Key at third base. A triple by Jeremy Chaplin would clear the bases, as he brought in Key and Langreck’s courtesy runner, Brady Ramker. Chaplin scored during the next at-bat when Dewey hit a single. With two outs, Pete McMillin got on base by fielder’s choice, made it to second on Vowels’ single and scored on Havlovic’s single. Leonard was walked and Key struck out to end the inning, while the Go-Hawks now had an 8-2 advantage over the Vikings.
Vinton-Shellsburg tacked on one run in the top of the sixth, as Axl Hoepner hit a triple and scored on a fielder’s choice, which made it 8-3. Waverly-Shell Rock scored no runs in the bottom of the sixth.
With one last chance at a rally, the Vikings surely didn’t count themselves out, as they plated four runs in the top of the seventh inning. Haefner made it on base by a Go-Hawk error, and Cornell followed suit with a single that put Haefner on second. Dudley’s single advanced Haefner to third and put Cornell at second. During the next at-bat, Malcolm Newell, the Go-Hawk relief pitcher, was called for a balk that advanced all runners and scored Haefner. Hoepner reached base with the hit-by-pitch, while a sacrifice fly by Karr brought in Cornell and left Dudley at third. Hoepner stole second and made it to third on Brock Radeke’s single, which also scored Dudley. Hoepner was brought in by Brooks Erickson’s single, which made it 8-7. However, a strikeout by Newell would end the inning and the game, ending the Vikings’ hopes of a late rally.
Offensively, Vowels went 2-2, while Leonard and Dewey also went 2-3. Langreck and Chaplin both recorded two RBIs, while Havlovic, Leonard, Dewey and Graven each brought in one run.
On the mound, Graven earned the start and the win for the Go-Hawks, as he threw five innings, allowed five hits, gave up two runs, walked one and struck out three. Newell came in as the reliever and threw two innings, gave up seven hits, allowed five earned runs and struck out two.
Klunder was proud of the fight both pitchers put up against a solid Vinton-Shellsburg team.
“Carson gave us another good start and Malcolm did a nice job,” Klunder said. “He came in there on Senior Night and closed out the win for us. Both of those guys pitched great, and it was nice to walk out of there with a win over a good Vinton-Shellsburg team.”
After the game, the Waverly-Shell Rock baseball program honored the six seniors with their fathers throwing out a pitch to their sons. Then, each player was mentioned and met their parents along the third base line.
For Klunder, he’s seen several senior classes come and go through the Go-Hawk baseball program. But, the 2019 senior class seems familiar to the 2017 group of seniors.
“This class reminds you of that class  and how they may not always get to reap the benefits of how good they are,” Klunder said. “We have a really young team right now, so these freshmen, any success that some of these younger guys have over the next two or three seasons, I think they will be able to look toward these seniors and how they showed them the Go-Hawk baseball way. I look at this not only how they finish this year, but I think their legacy will live on beyond this year.”
Waverly-Shell Rock’s next contest is on Thursday, July 11 at Hampton-Dumont, the same team the Go-Hawks play in the opening round of the Class 3A, District 6 tournament.