Growth shows, but SH baseball bats silent

JEWELL – Bret Bell knows it, the players know it and the fans know it – South Hamilton’s baseball record isn’t reflective of the team’s growth since the opening day of the season back in May.

As is all too often the case, those youthful growing pains take some time to subside.

Thursday’s mid-afternoon loss to Heart of Iowa Conference rival Gilbert at the Mike Penning Athletic Complex was a perfect example. The Hawks continued to close the gap, but were unable to see the fruits of their labor.

The Tigers (14-9, 11-5 HOIC) sprayed 13 hits to all areas of the field, but were forced to scratch out a run here and a run there in their 4-0 shutout victory over South Hamilton (3-17, 0-14 HOIC). It was quite a contrast to the first meeting in Gilbert back on June 9 – a 13-0, five-inning pummeling by the Tigers.

“The growth has been outstanding,” Bell, South Hamilton’s head coach, said. “It’s coming and we’re almost there. I think we’ll surprise a lot of people in districts. I’m looking forward to it.”

Gilbert roughed up starting pitcher Nathan Sogard for nine hits in three innings, but scored just three runs. Reliever Trey Woodall worked the final four frames and limited the Tigers to four hits and a single run.

South Hamilton committed two errors, but neither translated into runs. The Hawks also worked out of several jams; left fielder Caleb Olson gunned down Jacob Adams at the plate to end the first inning and Gilbert loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, but plated just one run.

“We got out of jams; those are big momentum swings and I don’t think (the players) understand that yet,” Bell said. “We played well, but we just didn’t have it at the plate.”

And there’s the rub.

The pitching and defense held up for the Hawks, but Adams – Gilbert’s junior right-handed hurler – owned the strike zone throughout his seven innings of duty.

Trey Woodall led-off the bottom of the first inning for South Hamilton and lined a shot to right field for a single. He was eventually thrown out at home trying to score from second on a hit-and-run grounder to the right side off the bat of JD Rader.

And that was it for the Hawks.

Adams twirled a one-hit gem that featured seven strikeouts and just one walk. He faced just one batter more than the minimum and allowed only three Hawk base runners.

Adams retired the final eight batters, four on strikes.

“(Adams) threw well and commanded the strike zone, but we helped him out more than we probably should have, especially with two strikes,” Bell said. “(Gilbert catcher Jared) Gescheidler does a great job calling games, too. He always has you guessing.”

A five-day layoff between games didn’t help the bats either, Bell said.

“We didn’t get to see any live pitching since last Saturday. I knew there was going to be some rust, but I didn’t expect that much,” he said.

Nick Day went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs for the Tigers with singles in the first and second innings. Adams was also 3-for-4, highlighted by a first-inning RBI knock to right that gave Gilbert a quick 2-0 lead.

Dax Hatfield and Barrett Schonefeld both laced two singles. Steven Lawrence drove in the seventh-inning run on a groundout.

South Hamilton will close out its regular season this week, starting with a home game against fifth-ranked (Class 2A) Roland-Story tonight at 7:30 p.m.