BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – Central Lee’s Dylan Stueker and Jadon Hawk came into Tuesday’s District 10 semi final game with a 4-0 combined record and ERAs of less than 0.62.
For a 4-7 team to come into town and put up 11 hits on the two Hawks was unexpected. So, too, was the 4-0 lead the Van Buren Warriors had over the Hawks after the top of the second.
“I didn’t think someone could come in and put six on Jadon and Dylan,” Head Coach Shane Weirather said after the game.
“Give Van Buren credit they made some improvements on their hitting and they handled Jadon as well as anybody as this year.”
But the Hawks would right the ship with back-to-back four run innings enroute to a 9-6 win over Van Buren. The win pits the Hawks against Mediapolis on Saturday at Central Lee for the District 10 title at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs defeated Danville 15-2 in five innings in Mediapolis Tuesday night.
Hawk, a senior, started for the Hawks and quickly put four on with a walk and three singles. Seventeen pitches into the game Hawk found himself down 1-0 with no outs and the bases loaded.
Hawk worked a strikeout to the next batter, but then a fielder’s choice at second plated another run. With runners at first and third and two outs, Van Buren’s Tony Davison broke for second and Hawk wheeled and threw to try and get him as the Warrior’s Dylan Richardson took off from third to score on the double steal.
Hawk got out of the inning with a pop up to shallow right but Central Lee was looking up at 3-0 deficit – something a bit uncommon for the 2019 state qualifiers.
Stueker’s walk would be the only action the Hawks would see in the bottom half.
Van Buren would get at Hawk again in the top of the second with two outs. After fanning the first two hitters, Hawk would give up three straight singles, the last on a shot to left fielder Kade Myhre who actually made a gutsy dive for the liner and came up short, but the ball bounced into his glove as he got horizontal to keep the hit to just one RBI.
Hawk would work one of his seven strikeouts on the night to get out of the jam down 4-0.
With Central Lee fans strewn about the high school baseball field engaging in some social distancing, the Hawks seemed ready to get back in it.
Adam Boeck would reach on an error and Evan Pohren would earn a walk. Alex Sandoval would single to left driving Boeck in from second and moving Pohren to third. Jonny Snider would fan for the first out, but Myhre was walked and TJ Stutes would ground out to second scoring Pohren to make it 4-2.
Stueker would work a walk off Van Buren starter Ryan Wolf to load the bases and then Hawk would single to center scoring two to tie the game at 4, before Simmons flew out to center stranding Stueker.
Jackson Manning would open the top of the third with a single and would come around to score on a double by Davison to left. Taylor Sprouse would then lay down a bunt back to Hawk with Davison on the run. Hawk tried to get Davison at third, but was too late and Sprouse reached on the fielder’s choice.
Hawk would then settle in and get the next three hitters stranding the two Warriors.
Central Lee would work four more runs in the bottom of the third. Boeck, Pohren and Stueker all singled to load the bases with no outs. Snider grounded into a fielder’s choice at second, but got the RBI when Boeck came in to score. Myhre would fan for the second out, but Stutes would single to left scoring Pohren and Snider for a 7-5 Central Lee lead.
Stueker then singled on a grounder to deep short moving Stutes to third. Jadon Hawk then hit a towering infield fly ball that Van Buren’s Taylor Sprouse couldn’t get his bearings on with the runners going on contact. The ball fell behind Sprouse allowing Stutes to score for an 8-5 lead.
Treyton Bainbridge, on in relief of Wolf, sat Simmons down swinging to end the inning.
Both teams would go three up, three down in the fourth. Van Buren would get two on with two outs in the fifth, but a hard grounder to Alex Sandoval at third turned into a double play when the sophomore stepped on the bag and fired to first to clean up the inning.
Central Lee would put one on in the fifth when Myhre reached on a dropped line drive to left, but Stutes lineout to short would result in a twin killing when Myhre got doubled off at first to end the inning.
Van Buren’s Jonah Heckenberg hit a 1-1 pitch out over the left field fence for solo homer with one out in the top of the sixth off Stueker, but that would be the end of the scoring for Van Buren down 8-6.
The Hawks would pad the lead when Simmons doubled on a line drive to left field scoring Corbin Pohren, courtesy running for Stueker who took a pitch off his ear lobe.
Boeck and Pohren would both go down swinging to bring on the top of the seventh. Stueker would get two outs on two pitches, and then work a ground out to end the game.
Stueker said he knew the Hawks bats would come alive.
“I knew we would get the bats going and we’d come alive,” he said.
“We want to win state, we want to go farther than we did last year. We know we can do it, we just have to put in the work and take quality at bats.”
The Hawks were bounced from the state tourney last year by Des Moines Christian, and Stueker said the teams goal this year is to go farther than last year and win the Class 2A state title.
Weirather said the game was pretty clean defensively with the exception a few hiccups.
“Our outfield is always good. TJ Stutes plays a great centerfield and is one of the best in the state I would assume,” he said.
“We had a couple hiccups, but Jadon made some nice plays there at the end. You have to hang with it on this field. It’s lumpy and tough to handle. I think that works to our advantage a lot of the time, but we get some of the tough hops, too.”
Weirather said the Hawks haven’t seen Mediapolis since the district finals two years ago, but he expects solid defense from the Bulldogs.
“They’ll come in and play good defense and we better be ready for the same type of game we got tonight.”
Sandoval led the Hawks at the plate going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Hawk, Stutes, Evan Pohren, Stueker, Simmons and Boeck all had hits for the Central Lee. Stutes had 3 RBI on the night.
Hawk went four innings and gave up five runs, four earned on eight hits and one walk. Stueker went the final three innings for the save, and gave up one earned run on three hits and one walk. He struck out one.