Walk-off homer propels ‘Cats
Multi-homer games and walk-off bombs are not an everyday occurrence in baseball. Spectators rarely see both in the same game.
Erik Hill accomplished both of those feats in the first game of De Soto's doubleheader against Gardner-Edgerton, finishing with three hits in as many at bats, while being intentionally walked twice.
Hill's second blast of the evening over the left field fence ended the game and gave De Soto an 18-7, run-rule win in six innings.
"It felt pretty good. I've been working on my swing a lot," Hill said. "Plus Coach was throwing pretty hard yesterday to get us ready for this team. That helped us get around on the ball."
In the second game, the tide turned and this time it was De Soto on the receiving end of a run-rule loss. Gardner jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first inning and De Soto never recovered, losing 12-2 in five innings. The split earned the Wildcats a 7-8 record overall, 5-5 in the league.
"I'm encouraged. It's fun to come to the ballpark. I think We're getting better. We're all pretty much confident at the plate," coach Joel Thaemert said. "And that's all you can ask for. You hope to get better."
The offensive improvement was exemplified by De Soto scoring 20 runs on the night, but one play in the first game was an example of the improvement in defensive execution.
With runners on first and third and two out in the third inning, the Trailblazers attempted an early steal - the runner on first breaks for second, trying either to induce a balk or a rundown during which the runner on third can score.
Senior pitcher Brady Maasen stepped off the rubber, preventing a balk call, and fired a throw to second baseman Shane Miller. The runner broke for home immediately and Miller fired a strike to catcher Eric Buffkin, who promptly applied the tag to cut down the runner and end the inning.
"We executed that early steal defense perfectly," Thaemert said.
Maasen picked up the win. He pitched five complete innings and struck out five.
Led by Hill, whose stat line in the first game read three for three with five RBIs and four runs scored, De Soto got six of its runs in the fourth inning.
In the second game, the Wildcat lineup struggled in its approach to a submarine right-handed pitcher Gardner threw. It was especially tough since the Wildcats don't have one left-handed hitter on their roster.
"We had a little trouble seeing the ball coming from his hand," Hill said. "If they would have pitched an overhand guy it might have been different."
Logan Clark had both RBIs - one plating Maasen and the other Buffkin - in game two for De Soto. Tommy Elmer took the loss on the mound.
The split comes on the heels of a sweep over Central Heights last Thursday. Elmer was the winner in the first game, an 11-1 victory. Daniel Peterson won the second game, 9-6, and Maasen picked up the save.
A make-up doubleheader Thursday at Ottawa is next up for the Wildcats, and Hill believes De Soto carries some momentum into the doubleheader.
"We picked up a lot of momentum that first game," Hill said. "And I know the second game didn't go well, but everybody knows we can bounce back. Everybody knows we can take Ottawa."