Hawks tame Wildcats in a near-picture perfect regional effort

Hawks tame Wildcats in a near-picture perfect regional effort

The Hiland Hawks teed off on Mowrystown Whiteoak pitching in their Div. IV regional semifinal game at Beavers Field Thursday, June 2, finishing off the Wildcats 10-0 in a yet another five-inning affair.

The Hawks came out scorching the ball from the moment Grant Miller whacked a line-shot double to start the game and simply overwhelmed the Wildcats.

Noland Yoder continued Hiland’s torrid mound effort by facing just three hitters over the minimum.

However, the biggest difference between the two teams came in the field, where the Hawks were flawless while the Wildcats struggled immensely, committing four errors while making several other miscues that weren’t recorded as errors but kept innings alive for Hiland to run away with the victory.

The five-inning win marks the fifth time in five tournament games Hiland has disposed of its opponent in just five innings.

“It’s been an amazing run,” said Hiland head coach Chris Dages. The guys are hitting the ball exceptionally well, pitching has been spot on and we had some really nice defensive plays today. Our defense was special today and we were able to put a lot of pressure on them early and capitalized on our opportunities.”

The key to victory showed up in a first inning that put Nolan Yoder’s mound presence on full display. It also defined the game’s outcome.

Whiteoak got a walk followed by a long fly ball that was misplayed into a double in right to put runners on second and third with nobody out. With major momentum hanging in the balance, Yoder dug deep. He struck out the next hitter and got the following batter to hit a one-hopper to Brady Yoder at third. Yoder fired a perfect strike to Dakota Miller at home, and Miller ran the runner all the way back toward third before putting the tag on him for the second out. A strikeout later, Yoder had escaped a very dangerous situation with nary a run given up.

The Hawks offense didn’t squander its opening opportunity.

Grant Miller doubled to lead off the Hiland half of the inning, and Cody Yoder rifled a shot to right to plate him for a 1-0 lead. Nolan Yoder then smacked a single through the left side, and Jeff Todaro hit a long fly to center that moved Cody Yoder to third. After Nolan Yoder advanced to second on indifference, Alec Weaver’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0. Miller was hit by a pitch and Tony Yoder then lined a singled to left to make it 3-0 through one inning.

After challenging in the first, Whiteoak would muster one infield single as its lone baserunner over the final four innings. Amid that effort was an outstanding play at third by Brady Yoder that highlighted the Hawks’ defensive effort.

Hiland’s bats wouldn’t stop answering the call.

Hiland plated a run in the second without benefit of a hit, with two errors allowing Colin Coblentz to score. Tony Yoder cranked a one-out single in the third inning and Coblentz then crushed a triple to the gap in right-center to make it 5-0.

The fourth inning saw the Hawks add two more to the growing total of runs. Another error with one out opened the door, and Todaro made it hurt by destroying a pitch to the base of the wall in dead-center, 390 feet away. Weaver walked and Miller hit a squibber pop-up that was misplayed at first, allowing Todaro to score to make it 7-0.

Nolan Yoder took seven pitches to sail through the fifth inning, the final out coming when he snared a bullet right back at him.

Hiland didn’t waste any time putting the game away.

Isaak Yoder singled to center and Coblentz rocked a double to left to make it 8-0. With one out Cody Yoder was hit by a pitch, and an infield single from Nolan Yoder loaded the bases. Todaro’s sacrifice fly made it 9-0, and after Weaver walked, Miller drove a sharp shot to center to plate the 10th and final run that shut the game down and advanced the Hawks to the Friday regional final, where they will face an old nemesis in Newark Catholic.

The Hawks knocked out soft-tossing Connor Butler in the first inning, and Dages said his team’s approach at the plate was excellent against pitcher who relies on off-speed stuff.

“Just a great approach in staying back, staying relaxed and letting the ball come to them,” Dages said. “Sometimes guys like that give us problems, but we had a great approach today and it paid off.”

As for Nolan Yoder’s effort on the hill, Dages said the performance exemplified his pitcher’s mound presence.

“Nothing shakes Nolan,” Dages said. “That first inning, you couldn’t tell if we were in that situation or whether there was nobody on. He stays so focused and poised, it doesn’t matter what the situation is.”

Nolan Yoder and teammate Isaak Yoder have now teamed up to allow just one run through the first five tournament games for Hiland. Dages said that makes it easy to coach, noting that both pitchers have exemplified great poise while allowing a strong defense to make plays behind them.

Yoder twirled a complete-game five-inning two-hitter, striking out five and walking one. By allowing only three baserunners, he successfully shut down the vaunted Whiteoak running game that spurs the Wildcats' attack.

The Hawks had no trouble putting hitters on base. Hiland got a contributing effort up and down the lineup, where eight players recorded hits and the other got on twice by walk. Leading the way was freshman Coblentz went 2-for-2 with a double and triple, driving in and scoring a pair of runs, Todaro hammered a two-run double, Miller drove in a pair, Tony Yoder had two hits and scored once with an RBI and Nolan Yoder helped himself with two hits while scoring twice.

Hiland returns to the regional finals, where it fell last year by a 4-1 score to Lucasville Valley. The Hawks won’t face LV again, with Newark Catholic handing it a 6-1 defeat in the day’s second regional semifinal tilt.

Having gone through a rough stretch midway through the season, the Hawks may not boast a stellar record, but they have played their best ball when it matters most, and now two teams collide in the regional final who have met there many times before.

“We’ve got all the confidence in the world right now,” Dages said. “People might look at the record and think it’s down from prior seasons, but we battled through a tough stretch where we didn’t have a very good approach at the plate that cost us some games. Plus, we played some pretty tough competition.”

The Hawks improved to 17-9 on the campaign while Whiteoak bows out at 21-10.

Friday's final is scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch, with the winner advancing to state.