Swinging for the bleachers might win games in the major leagues, but for Calamus-Wheatland baseball coach Dave Rock, it’s what else those bats can do that matters.
He calls it “situational hitting,” a skill where rather than try to knock a home run out of the park, the idea is to move runners around on the bases and drive one and two runs in at a time. And, more importantly, put pressure on the opponent’s defense.
Situational hitting had worked for the Warriors earlier in the year, helping them get key Big East Conference wins and nearly upend several larger non-conference schools. But Cal-Wheat got away from it, and the results showed in the loss column.
At Saturday’s Rebel Invitational, Rock and his team got back to situational hitting, and it was that style of play — moving baserunners along one and two bags at a time before bringing them home — that gave the Warriors their reward: a 17-7 win over a good Preston team and the tournament’s first-place trophy.
“We’re always moving guys up,” said Rock, whose team improved to 14-12 on the season. “It keeps the pressure on the defense. We’re always in an opportunity where we get a guy to second base and move him over to third base. Well then even a groundball or a flyball scores a run.
“Everybody up here was a good team,” he continued. “It’s putting the ball in play and putting the pressure on the defense to make the plays.”
Cal-Wheat used that situational hitting to rally from an early 4-2 Preston lead. The Trojans touched starter Justin Alden for five straight hits to start the game, including a two-RBI single by Alex Hinerichsen and a run-scoring single by Blake Tebbe to bolt out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. The Warriors’ John Diercks responded with a two-run RBI single in the bottom half of the inning to cut the Trojans’ lead to one.
After Colton Bormann’s run-scoring single re-established a two-run advantage for the Trojans, the Warriors went to work in the bottom of the second.
Landon Goettsch’s RBI triple and Justin Alden’s run-scoring single tied the game, and Todd Doehn’s single gave the Warriors its first lead. Diercks’ booming two-run home run made it 7-4. It looked like the Warriors would add to the lead in the third inning, but courtesy runner Brendan Williams was called out at third for leaving early after Goettsch’s apparent sacrifice fly.
The Trojans tied the game on Hinerichsen’s three-run homer, but the Warriors took the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning on Nolan Christensen’s sacrifice fly to center. With an 8-7 lead going into the fifth inning, the Warriors jumped on Trojan relievers Craiton Andresen and Fedderson, plating nine runs over the next two innings to end the game. The final run came on a wild pitch that scored Diercks.
“With people coming through and hitting the ball and stuff like that, it’s nice to have runners on base and getting in scoring position,” said Diercks, who had five RBIs in the title game. “Our goal is just to always have a positive at-bat.”
Alden said he didn’t let the Trojans’ hot start get to him. He simply changed his pitch selection to more off-speed and curve balls.
“I knew Preston was going to come and battle. They have some of the top hitters in the conference,” he said. After giving up the lead, “I slowed my mechanics down, pitched within myself and pitched with confidence.”
Hinerichsen had five RBIs in the contest to lead Preston (16-9), and Fedderson was a home run short of hitting for the cycle. But neither the Trojans’ bullpen nor the defense could get the needed out in the last two innings.
Rebels top Raiders for third
Northeast built a 9-0 lead in the fourth inning, then had to hold on as East Central mounted a rally over the last three innings to come away with a 10-6 win in the third-place game.
The win for coach Kyle Miller came in his team’s final-ever meeting with his alma mater East Central. The Raiders, where Miller played during his high school years, are in their final season this summer as East Central is beginning a whole-grade sharing agreement with Northeast this fall.
“That’s kind of bittersweet for me,” said Miller, a 2002 graduate who played for his father, Junior, on the Raiders’ mound. “I enjoyed my time playing there and I coached there for awhile. I’m sad to see them go.”
D.J. Fulton’s two-run home run in the top of the first gave the Rebels an early boost, and the lead grew to 6-0 after a pair of RBIs by Mitch Haferbier. But the defense also pitched in, as center fielder Seth Mommsen reached over the fence to rob East Central’s Jared Henfry of a second-inning home run.
The Raiders finally connected on a homer in the fourth inning, with Austin Daniels cracking a two-run shot over the fence to cut Northeast’s lead to 9-2. Henfry added a RBI single to drive in Andrew Snodgrass later in the inning to cut the Rebels’ advantage to six.
Cole Dickey’s two-out RBI in the top of the fifth made it 10-3 Northeast, before East Central responded with a one-run single by Cody Johnson in the bottom half of the inning. After holding the Rebels in the top of the sixth, Daniels and Snodgrass each scored before the Raiders loaded the bases with one-out. With the tying run at the plate, Rebel relief pitcher Seth Mommsen bailed out his team with a game-ending pair of strikeouts.
“I don’t ever want to make excuses but we’ve got to play hard until the end, and East Central was hitting the ball,” Northeast coach Miller said. “We got complacent, I think. We got that early lead, but a win’s a win and we’re going to move on. That’s not a bad team we beat.”
Meanwhile, the elder Miller was happy with how his Raiders (7-10) competed.
“We’re always looking to do better,” he said. “We have two conference doubleheaders next week, so we were a little pitchered out today and we’re going to save our pitchers for those guys.”
In the first-round games, Preston upended Northeast 5-4, with Colton Bormann picking up the win for the Trojans.
Meanwhile, Calamus-Wheatland took advantage of some shaky relief pitching to overtake East Central 11-4.
CALAMUS-WHEATLAND 17, PRESTON 7
Preston 310 300 — 7 9 2
Cal-Wheat 250 154 — 17 13 1
Matt Zeimet, Andrew Driscoll (3), Craiton Andresen (4), Jason Fedderson (6) and Blake Tebbe; Justin Alden, Landon Goettsch (6) and Austin Housenga. WP: Alden. LP: Driscoll. Multiple hits — Preston (Jason Fedderson 3, Alex Hinerichsen 2); Calamus-Wheatland (Goettsch 3, Housenga 3, Diercks 2, Nolan Christensen 2). 2B — Preston (Fedderson); Calamus-Wheatland (Todd Doehn). 3B — Preston (Fedderson); Calamus-Wheatland (Goettsch, Housenga). HR — Preston (Hinerichsen); Calamus-Wheatland (Diercks). RBI — Preston (Hinrerichsen 5, Colton Bormann, Tebbe); Calamus-Wheatland (Diercks 5, Doehn 4, Christensen 3, Alden 2, Goettsch).
NORTHEAST 10, EAST CENTRAL 6
Northeast 241 210 — 10 11 2
East Central 000 312 — 6 9 2
Tevin Stoecker, Seth Mommsen (5) and DJ Fulton;. Kyle Johnson, Andrew Snodgrass and Nick Wall. WP: Stoecker. LP: Johnson. Multiple hits: Northeast (Stoecker 2, Mitch Haferbier 2); East Central (Ben Hildebrandt 2, Cody Johnson 2). 2B — Northeast (Mommsen); East Central (Johnson). HR — Northeast (Fulton); East Central (Austin Daniels). RBI — Northeast (Stoecker 3, Fulton 2, Haferbier 2, Matt Cain 2, Cole Dickey); East Central (Daniels 2, Josh Rathje 2, Jared Henfry).
Calamus-Wheatland: Nolan Christensen, John Diercks, Landon Goettsch.
Preston: Colton Bormann, Jason Fedderson.
Northeast: DJ Fulton.
East Central: Cody Johnson.