The Night Hawks baseball team has had a rough stretch to start the season, losing their first three games on the road.
By COLE BENZ
The team—comprised of New England, Hettinger, and Scranton—headed to Dickinson to open the season against the Midgets’ junior varsity squad with a double header on April 7.
The Night Hawks showed early what their coach had previously told the Record, that their hitting would be better. The Night Hawks put a man on base and advanced him with some hitting. Senior Brandon Pierce, who was at third, ended up crossing the plate for the first run of the game and season.
The Night Hawks performed well at the plate, garnering 11 hits to a .333 batting average between both games.
The Night Hawks, though, dropped both contests to scores of 11-1 and 13-3.
Pitching was a struggle and Dix said that his team gave up too many walks. Dix added that he knew his team would have to work on pitching this season, and that his hurlers will improve with more reps on the mound.
The Night Hawks traveled to Steele on April 12 to face off against Kidder County for their first regional game of the year. Kidder County is a co-op made up of Steele, Tappen, Wing, and Napoleon.
Pitching shined in this contest as each team was relegated to only three hits.
The Pirates got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning. Pierce was on the mound and struck out the first batter but hit the second. On a ground ball hit by the third man in the order helped the runner at first base advance to second.
The Night Hawks then allowed the hitter to reach on an error and Pierce issued a walk to load the bases with two outs. The next batter blasted a double that plated the first two runs of the game, putting Kidder County up 2-0.
But the Night Hawks tied things up in the top of the next inning.
Pierce took one deep to the outfield for a RBI triple before advancing to home on a wild pitch, getting even with the Pirates at two.
Pierce pitched four innings and started the fifth. He issued a walk and plunked a batter, Dix brought in sophomore Jarad Mattis with two on and no outs. Mattis started well in relief, striking out two batters but did allow a run on a fielder’s choice.
The Pirates saved a run in the fifth inning with an acrobatic catch by their third baseman. Freshman Jacob Dix reached second on a two-out double before Pierce ripped a line drive at the third baseman. He leaped up and grabbed the ball out the air, ending the inning.
“[It] was a whale of catch by the third baseman,” Nolan Dix said. “[It was] a nice play by the third baseman, or we would have tied it up in the fifth, that ended the rally.”
In the bottom of the fifth Kidder County took the lead and didn’t relinquish it, winning 3-2.
Pitching and defense improved from the first two games to the third. The Night Hawks were able to escape a bases loaded jam in the first and sixth inning without giving up any runs.
Nolan Dix said his team has reached base well enough, but they still need to be able to advance the runners.
“We just couldn’t get the runs across,” Nolan Dix said. “We left five on base.”
The effort is there, and Dix is confident with his team and the depth they have at the plate.
“We definitely have 10, or 11 batters in the varsity game that we can rely on, that we put at the plate that we have confidence with,” Nolan Dix said.
Pitching will need more reps, and the head coach said they just need innings. He pointed to his senior pitcher Pierce. Pierce had a rough outing in Dickinson but settled down to have a better game against Kidder County.
Pierce, Jacob Dix and Jaxon Mellmer each had a hit against Kidder County. Pierce had a triple with an RBI and Dix had a double with an RBI.
Pierce took the loss with four walks, one hit batsman and two strikeouts. Mattis pitched two innings and issued three walks and had three strikeouts.
The junior varsity lost 11-1 to Kidder County.
The Night Hawks travel to Shiloh Christian on Thursday, April 14 and are in Hettinger for their first home game on April 19 against Washburn.