Throughout the 2019 season they’ve got the job done in just about every way possible. They’ve won mercy-rule shortened games. They’ve come from behind. They’ve pitched their way to victory and they’ve slugged it out.
After going 18-2 and securing a Southeast Iowa Superconference South Division Championship, the Central Lee Hawks baseball team also made light work of their first round district playoff opponent Tuesday as well.
Oddly enough, this victory got started off on a shaky note. With Senior ace Waylon Weirather on the mound, anyone familiar with this team figured a few runs of support would be all the Hawks would need.
That notion was in doubt early in the first inning against a Chariton Chargers team that checked in with only six wins on the season but had just defeated Superconference runner-up Van Buren by a score of 15-5 on Saturday. The inning started with a blooper behind second that popped out of the glove of Senior center fielder Tyler Hopps as he laid out attempting to make the grab. That play was followed up by a rare walk by Weirather (he had issued just 9 in 40+ innings coming in) and suddenly the Chargers had a pair aboard with no outs.
That’s when an odd call from the Chariton dugout changed the direction of the inning. Chargers senior catcher Jackson Fischer has hit .420 this year while slugging a whopping .593 in his final season before heading to Des Moines Area Community College to play baseball next season. The perfect bat in the lineup to head to the plate with a chance to take an early lead against the Hawks’ ace. Instead of swinging away Fisher laid down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Weirather and put runners at second and third with one out.
The next two at-bats swung the momentum back to the Hawks as Weirather struck out the next two Chargers to end the inning and send Central Lee to the plate in the bottom half of the opening frame with no damage done. Head Coach Shane Weirather felt that set the tone for the game.
“We wanted to get off to a good start and we faced a tough situation early. When the kid that’s headed to DMACC comes up with two on and nobody out, we’ll take the out. From there Waylon did what he does for us. He mixed in his breaking ball nicely and got us out of that situation.”
From there it was all up to the Central Lee bats as the Hawks put up two runs in the bottom half of the inning on a Luke Simmons grounder that plated Tyler Hopp and when the ball squirted through the shortstop’s legs for an error, KJ Skow came in to score as well.
In the second inning, number nine hitter TJ Stutes rolled an RBI single to push the lead to 3-0 before the Hawks broke it open in the third. A Skow RBI single was followed by a Simmons double that plated two more runs as the Hawks would tack on four runs in total to take a 7-0 lead. Stringing hits together has been a staple all season for Shane Weirather’s club.
“That’s what we expect from our hitters. We hit strikes and take walks if that’s what’s there. We’ve been able to square up a lot of balls this year and we did that early tonight.”
The seven runs of support is all that the head coach needed to see as he pulled Waylon after three innings in which he struck out four, walked two, and didn’t give up a hit.
In came Sophomore Dylan Stuecker who worked the next two scoreless innings giving up just a pair of hits while striking out one to get the hold as Central Lee scored three in the fifth inning to end the game, capped off by a Sam Hirner walkoff RBI single.
The early run support and ability to bring Stuecker in means that pitch count won’t be a factor heading into Saturday’s district championship game, according to Coach Weirather.
“That early breathing room from the run support we got was nice and Dylan came in and did a great job to finish up for us. We’ve got all of our pitchers available to pitch against a solid Davis County team.”
Weirather referred to the Mustangs, who defeated Eddyville-Blakesberg-Fremont by a score of 6-0 in the opening game from Central Lee High School Tuesday.
The Hawks and Mustangs had been scheduled to meet back on May 29th but that game was cancelled due to wet field conditions and was never made up.
Mustangs Ace Trevor Slayton got the shutout against EBF and threw exactly 90 pitches which means he will be eligible to throw against the Hawks. Had he thrown one more pitch he would have been ineligible to pitch until Sunday.
Nonetheless, Weirather feels at this point in the season it’s more about what his team does on the field than who they play against.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. It’s all about us. We could have played better tonight but if we play good ball we feel like we’re pretty hard to beat.”
The Hawks will host Davis County Saturday at 7PM from Central Lee High School in the Class 2A District 8 Championship.