“The back-and-forth battle is what made it euphoric to be apart of and shows the resiliency our team has within us.”
These are the words of Thomas Evans, a captain on the Hilbert baseball team, referring to the Hawks opening series of the much-anticipated 2023 season.
The Hilbert Hawks travelled to Pittsburgh, PA over the weekend, participating in a pair of games against Chatham University. The Hawks fell short in both contests, losing 5-4 and 10-9, respectively.
Off the back of these nail-biting losses, Head Coach Drew Fittry believes his team learned a lot, he said.
“We know what we need to work on moving forward to prepare for a competitive AMCC schedule, but the biggest takeaway for me was our compete level,” he said. “Every time Chatham took it to us, we responded.”
This was surely the case, as the Hawks and Cougars engaged in 12 innings of competitive and gripping baseball.
In the first game, the Hawks came out of the gate strong. Evans led the game off with a towering home run to center field. Shortly thereafter, fellow captain Patrick Whelan sent a ball into left field, making his way to third base for a triple. Designated hitter Jack Duffek followed, hitting a sacrifice fly that scored Whelan.
Starting pitcher Mike Contini held down the fort. He tossed 4.2 innings, letting in 2 runs. Brendan Walsh came to Contini’s relief, throwing 2.1 innings and sending the Hawks into an enthralling extra-innings competition. Blaine Morgan tossed the final 4.1 innings of the game.
Despite their explosive first inning, Hilbert’s offense hit a lull. They mustered 4 runs in 12 innings of play. The Hawks ultimately succumbed to the Cougars in the 12th inning, losing on a walk-off single. The fate of the game was determined at home plate, where a bang-bang play resulted in the runner being called safe.
The Hawks began their second game shortly thereafter, however, this time they were illuminated under the glow of lights.
John Riviere Vejas, the Hawks second baseman, led the game off with a triple into left center. Evans followed suit, smoking a ball into the same gap. Pat Whelan ushered Evans home with a sacrifice to left field.
In the innings that followed, sophomore Derek Martinez sprinkled in two doubles.
Starting pitcher Drew Cole threw a brilliant 4.1 innings, fanning 7 batters.
In the 6th inning, Evans launched a ball into the night, a no-doubter that fell far beyond the confines of the park.
However, the Hawks fell once again, with the Cougars pulling away with another 1 run victory.
When asked about the Hawks performance at the plate, Assistant Coach Tony Ballistrea expressed optimism at the offenses’ ability to start off the game hot. However, Ballistrea expressed concerns about the offense’s waning efforts in the later innings of the game.
“We did our job offensively to start off each inning in the doubleheader,” Ballistrea said. “Unfortunately, our lack of momentum during the game kept our offense as a whole contained.”
Evans, who is known amongst his teammates as Red, remains confident and buoyant in his team.
“Although the win column doesn’t show it, seeing is half of it,” he said. “Seeing is believing, feeling is knowing and this team is powerful.”
Evans sentiment was also shared amongst fellow captain Pat Whelan, who states that the team’s performance was “Encouraging, especially from such a young, inexperienced group. The future is bright.”