As an electric storm painted the backdrop west of Granger during the Hawks’ rematch with Madrid (18-6) Tuesday, June 25, the Hawks captured that lightning in a bottle to walk away with a 4-3 win in a blink of an eye.
After Alex Bice let up a single in the top of the seventh inning, lefty Bryce Achenbach came in for relief to match Madrid’s new batter. Achenbach made good on the same situation against St. Marys the week before, picking off the runner at first. Looking to repeat that, he sent five balls to first base to get the out second out of the inning.
Unable to get his man out in time and needing to complete Madrid’s at-bat, Achenbach was forced to send in the pitch. Jacob Loew took it in and knocked the stitches off on a line drive straight to Joe Rhodes at third base.
In one fell swoop, he sent it over the first to get the second out, ending the game on a double play.
“I pitched ACGC so I wasn’t really worried,” Achenbach said. “I knew if I threw strikes, the guys behind me would make it work and it worked out pretty well.
He added he turned around just as “shocked” as the crowd to see that faith play out after Madrid made hard contact with that one pitch down the strike zone.
Sending in that single pitch, Achenbach recorded 2/3 innings, two outs, and his first save of the season to protect the lead made possible by Bice’s work on the mound for 6 1/3 innings. Not for the circumstantial pitching change, he would have recorded his first complete game after clocking in at only 89 pitches with four K’s and no walks.
“I was in the groove for a bit and I kind of lost it,” Bice said looking back at the three runs put past him. “But coach talked to me how to calm down and stay grounded. And I had my teammates behind me, so it was all good.”
Madrid never scored more than one run in an inning as Bice and the field helped curb a possible Tigers comeback following the Hawks’ four runs in their second frame. With zeroes across the rest of the board for W-G, protecting the lead with a steady defense became the objective.
The Hawks have posted games of 10 runs or more nine times this year, paling Tuesday’s scoreboard in comparison. But in Evans said in his mind, it was just as worthy of a performance as those slugfests.
“This was the best we’ve hit,” Evans said. “We had one fly ball in the infield. We spent a lot of time here this morning just going through the ball instead of dipping it. I told them [after the game], ‘This is the best we’ve hit as a team.’”
With the Tiger outfield backing up to the warning tracks to prevent Joe Rhodes’ deep drives to the warning tracks, Evans added it was another good sign that the offense is operating on the best terms despite no one having more than one hit.
Though they each had just one hit each, Trey Lettow and Reese Jamison certainly made the most of their at-bats in that seminal second inning. Faced with two outs, they each drove in two runs to get the Hawks through the end after having their backs against the wall.
Woodward now walks away sweeping the Tigers on the season and jumps to 17-5. The Hawks will hit the road Thursday for a doubleheader with Des Moines Christian (18-6).