For the struggling Hastings College baseball team, game one of Monday’s doubleheader should have been a glimpse of hope.
The first six innings of the opener featured some of the better baseball the Broncos have played recently. The defense was sharp, turning three double plays, and Grant Svec was good on the mound.
Even though some late miscues led to a 6-2 defeat in game one, the Broncos showed some signs of moving forward.
And then came the nightcap.
Disaster struck in the second game of the doubleheader, as Hastings faced an 18-0 deficit at one point in the game, en route to an 18-4 defeat.
“I thought we came out and were ready to play in the first game. We had opportunities to score runs in that game and we didn’t captialize, and they got some key hits and we broke down defensively late in that game,” said HC head coach Steve Spongberg. “We have to have a little more heart, have a little more pride in what we’re doing... It was a disappointing response to a difficult game. We have to show a little heart, a little desire and a little pride. If we don’t want to do that, we’re not going to be successful.”
Starting with the positives, Svec threw a strong 6 1/3 innings and gave up just two earned runs while striking out four in the first game of the day. He walked just two batters.
“I thought Grant Svec pitched a very decent game in that one,” the HC coach said.
Some relief had to be felt for the Broncos when they snapped a dreadful 18-inning scoreless streak in conference play. After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the third inning, Kasey Ohnoutka led things off with a flare into center for a single. An infield hit by Camden Brichacek and a wild pitch gave Hastings runners on second and third with no outs.
Following a popup, Dylan Fitzgerald plated Ohnoutka with an RBI groundout. While Hastings ended the scoreless streak, it would have liked to get more out of the inning, as they stranded the go-head run at third.
Hastings did eventually take the lead in the fourth inning on another ground ball, this time off the bat of Logan O’Neill. The RBI gave HC a 2-1 advantage; though, the lead did not last long.
Northwestern scored a run in the fifth and sixth innings to take a 3-2 lead. The first two Red Raiders reached safely in the seventh inning. Then, a single scored another Red Raider run and an error on the play allowed another runner to cross the plate.
That ended Svec’s day on the mound, as Zach Fritton came in and allowed one run to score before ending the inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Northwestern’s Alec Rickabaugh retired the Broncos in order. He tossed a complete game and allowed just two runs on four hits and walked just one.
“Offensively, we had six hits, which isn’t good enough. I thought their pitcher was okay. I’m just going to say okay; I don’t think he was great — certainly not a pitcher that should hold us down to two runs, honestly. But, he did,” Spongberg said.
Fitzgerald, Camden Brichacek, Trent McMullen, Jayden Stack, and Ohnoutka tallied the Broncos’ six hits in game one, with McMullen.
Game two is one Hastings College will be happy to erase from its memory. The Red Raiders chased Hastings native Vinny Schmidt off the mound early in the game, en route to an 8-0 lead after two innings. And in the fourth, Northwestern brought all nine batters to the plate before the Broncos could record the first out of the frame.
The Red Raiders poured on 10 runs in the inning and won 18-4, despite HC scoring a trio of runs in the seventh.
“I do think we had some better at bats late in the second game, when the game was certainly not on the line,” the HC coach said. “If that’s a sign that we’re willing to start to do that, then maybe we have an opportunity to — certainly not be a regular season GPAC championship team, we’re way behind that, but there still is the outside opportunity to make the tournament. But we’re a long way from that too.”
Northwestern had five players with multiple hits. Austin Zylstra went 2-for-3 and tallied four RBIs, while Sutton Derr had three hits and four rund batted in.
Ohnoutka led Hastings with two hits, while Tino Zach, Stack, and Cory Koranda all had one hit. Brichacek, Ryder Ghidotti, Cole Staab, and Ohnoutka drove in one run each.
The Broncos coach said earlier in the season he saw his players play at the level needed to compete in the conference, but they just haven’t shown that against GPAC opponents.
Hastings is now tied for last at 2-10 in conference play. The next 12 GPAC contests for HC will be on the road until April 27, when the Broncos host four games against Briar Cliff.
“We’ve talked about a lot of ways to motivate these guys, but to some degree they have to have a little internal motivation. Right now, I don’t think we’re playing that way, honestly,” Spongberg said.
Hastings will play a non-conference game at Duncan Field Wednesday against former GPAC foe Nebraska Wesleyan. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m.
Northwestern (10-15, 4-5) 001 011 3 — 6 9 3
Hastings (5-18, 2-9) 001 100 0 — 2 6 4
W — Alec Rickabaugh. L — Grant Svec.
2B — N, Drew Schutt. H, Trent McMullen.
Northwestern (11-15, 5-5) 260 10 00 0 — 18 17 2
Hastings (5-19, 2-10) 000 100 3 — 4 5 2
W — Brady Roberts. L — Vinny Schmidt.
2B — N, Drew Schutt; H, Cory Koranda.