Hawks win Div. III state championship with 7-1 win over Waynedale

    Posted on September 12, 2016

    The Hiland baseball did something on June 4 that no other team in its program’s history has done. The 2016 edition of the Hawks won the Div. III state title on Saturday evening with a 7-1 win over the Waynedale Golden Bears.

    Tyson Gingerich’s three-run triple in the bottom of the fourth inning pushed a 1-1 tie to a Hawks’ 6-1 lead and was the big hit of the game. All five of the Hawks’ runs in the fourth came with two outs. Chris Kline and Bryan Yoder also had RBI hits in the inning.

    On the hill, Mitch Massaro got the call in the title game, didn’t have his best stuff, but worked through some jams and got the ‘W’. Massaro went 5.1 innings, giving up one run on four hits and whiffed two Golden Bears.

    Senior Eric Mullet got the final five outs of the game in relief for the Hawks and gets the save and preserved his season-long scoreless innings streak. More importantly, the Hawks won the state title behind the pair of quality arms.

    Waynedale’s only run came in the third inning on Evan Reidenbach’s fielder’s choice that scored Jarrett Wonsick.

    Reidenbach got the start on the hill for Waynedale and gave up six runs on seven hits. He struck out one and walked one.

    At the dish the Hawks got multiple-hit games from their one, two and three hitters. Kline, Gingerich and Bryan Yoder all delivered two hits for the Hawks and Kline and Gingerich each had two runs.

    Mullet, Massaro and Kobe Miller all added singles for the Hawks in the win.

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    HAWKS WIN – 5 key moments in a game full of big plays

    Posted on May 20, 2016

    by Dave Mast

    When Hiland defeated Coshocton 1-0 in the donnybrook Div. III district final at West Holmes Wednesday, May 18, the game was marked by one meaningful play after another. Great defense, superb pitching and some key mistakes all factored into the final score.

    Here are the five biggest reasons the game came to such an exciting conclusion.

    Running Man

    Chris Kline stood on second base in the third inning of Hiland’s 2-1 win, his hip sore and bleeding, scraped raw from a head-first slide into second base. Kline had just crushed a ball into right-center, and never hesitated as he flew around first base, even amidst cries of “Oh no, Chris” from the Hiland dugout.

    Because he was thinking two from the get-go, Kline’s mad rush to gain an extra base paid off.

    “I was thinking two the whole way, because I wanted to be aggressive and make something happen,” said Kline.

    He was and he did. The two-out hit and taking the extra base paid off when Tyson Gingerich dumped a single into shallow left field, allowing Kline to sprint home with the game’s lone run.

    “I told Chris after that half inning that it was his run because of his hustle,” said Hiland first base coach Clippy Yoder.

    In a game of huge plays, it may have been the one that flew under the radar the most, but none was bigger.

    Below the Bill

    OK, maybe there was a play that was bigger, or at least it could be argued that Hiland right-fielder Mitch Massaro’s diving catch of Alex McPeak’s shot to the gap was the single biggest play a Hiland defender made all season.

    Here’s the scenario: It was the top of the sixth, with the Hawks clinging to a 1-0 lead. Two consecutive errors by the normally trusty defense put starter Eric Mullet in a huge pickle.

    With nobody out, McPeak lashed a Mullet offering to the gap. The ball appeared to be headed for the fence, but Massaro went racing over, dove and made a sensational grab, forcing the Redskins runner to scamper back to first and second base respectively.

    “It was amazing,” said Massaro of the game-saver. “I saw the ball under my bill, so I knew I had to lay out for it. It was crushed. But as I went after it, I usually go over the bill I step back, under the bill I dive for it. I don’t think I realized how big it was the moment I caught it, but when I threw it into Tyson (Gingerich) I got a jolt in me. I don’t think I have ever made a bigger play than that one in my career.”

    The play saved the season for Hiland, and stunned Coshocton.

    “When I hit it I really thought it was in the gap and I was thinking three,” said McPeak, who can flat-out fly. “He made a great play.”

    The High Cheese

    Hiland was not out of trouble yet. Andrew Mason hit a shot back at Eric Mullet on the mound, who knocked it down, retrieved it, fired a strike to second, where Kline’s relay throw was not in time to get the hustling Mason. Now with runners on the corner and two outs, Mason took a huge lead to try to induce the Hawks into a run-down between first and second, a play designed to let the runner score from third. Instead, Mullet stepped off, threw to Kline and Hiland calmly kept the runner at third, even though Mason reached second base.

    That set up a showdown between Mullet and Coshocton’s fiercest hitter, Talon Babcock.

    With first base open, the Hawks chose to throw to Babcock, and after getting ahead in the count 1-2, Mullet went upstairs, delivering a nasty neck-high fastball that Babcock couldn’t lay off. A mighty swing and a miss later, and Mullet had escaped what had been the Redskins’ most dangerous threat in the game.

    “I was thinking strikeout,” said Mullet. “I knew my defense could make plays behind me, but the strikeout was in my mind, and I knew I could do it as well. I just wanted to get us out of the inning.”

    Mullet struck out 11 on the night, and in a game of this magnitude, with that much excitement, many people may not have realized that after Mullet allowed a lead-off single to Connor Roahrig to start the game, he didn’t give up another hit.

    “That is what Eric has done all year for us,” said Hiland coach Tom Gibson.

    The seven shutout innings runs Mullet’s OHSAA record string of not allowing an earned run to 102 over his three-year career.

    The Year of the Gun

    What to do. In the top of the seventh with Hiland up 1-0, Hunter Haas led off by reaching on an error. Coshocton head coach Scott Loomis called for a bunt, which Devin Ryan fouled off. Hiland, expecting another attempt, had the corners in. Instead, Loomis called an audible, and sent Haas on a steal attempt. Hiland catcher Bryan Yoder popped up and threw a perfect strike to second base, nailing Haas. Mullet then struck out the next two hitters to end the game.

    “I was hoping he’d run,” said Yoder, who is always hoping runners test his cannon behind the plate. “I knew when I let it go it was on the money.”

    The steal call was a bold move by Loomis, who eschewed the sacrifice bunt for the steal opportunity.

    With the bottom of the order up and having struggled mightily against Mullet all night, having very few decent swings against the mighty righty, he opted to turn to the running game instead. It didn’t work, but it was something he felt was worth risking with where the Redskins were in the batting order.

    If successful, he could have then bunted Haas to third, and with one out, it would have brought a multitude of options to the table.

    “We’ve played aggressive baseball all season, and we’ve been successful,” said Loomis. “I felt it was the best way for us to produce a run where we were in the order.”

    Instead, Yoder did what he does best, and ended any hope for Coshocton.

    Highway Robbery

    Hunter Haas did not get a hit for Coshocton, but that didn’t stop him from playing a huge role in keeping his team close. In the fifth inning, Haas got a huge jump on Derek Miller’s laser into center. Haas came roaring in, dove headlong and made a sensational catch to rob Miller of a sure base hit.

    Zach Coblentz then laid down a perfect bunt single, and advanced to third on Kline’s base hit. With Babcock taking over pitching duties, Hiland proceeded to botch a suicide squeeze attempt. As Coblentz came speeding toward the plate, Gingerich failed to attempt to bunt a pitch that was a couple inches off the plate, and on a bang-bang play, Coblentz was tagged out. Still, Hiland had hope with the dangerous Gingerich at the plate. He lined a shot to center, where Haas again got a huge jump on the play. The center fielder made a running shoestring catch to end the threat. In what could have been a huge inning for the Hawks, Haas’ defense proved to be huge, not once but twice.

    “We talked about that squeeze bunt during that long time-out, and I don’t know why our runner left early and I don’t know why our bunter didn’t bunt it,” said Gibson of the inning’s fiasco. “We had the right guy bunting and a great base runner at third. We just froze. But that catch on Derek’s ball to start the inning was pretty big. That kid made a great play.”

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    E-normous effort carries Hiland to regional with 1-0 win over Coshocton

    Posted on May 20, 2016

    by John Mast

    To be a successful high school softball team, the first requirement is to have a dominating pitcher. Teams have been known to ride an overpowering arm to state titles, because the farther you get down the tournament trail, the more runs come at a premium.

    It’s similar in baseball, but it’s considerably more difficult.

    At Wednesday night’s Division III district final at West Holmes High School, Hiland’s Eric Mullet carried his team on his back once again, tossing a one-hitter to lead the Hawks past a scrappy Coshocton bunch for a slim 1-0 victory.

    “He’s amazing, simply amazing,” said coach Tom Gibson of his ace’s effort on the mound. “They only squared one ball up on him and that was the one where Mitch made that great catch in right field.”

    That great catch was by Mitch Massaro, and it came at a critical juncture of the game. Hiland’s usually-sound defense looked like it was going to be their downfall, when back-to-back infield errors led to the Redskins having runners on first and second with nobody out and the Hawks nursing a 1-0 lead. Alex McPeak blistered a shot to the gap in right-center and Massaro laid out, catching it at full extension to preserve the lead on a shot that possibly could’ve plated two for Coshocton had it gone by. A fielder’s choice on a ground ball and another Mullet strikeout would end the inning.

    But Massaro wasn’t the only one who was making fantastic plays this night. There were plenty of defining moments to the game.

    Coshocton’s Hunter Haas came barreling in from center field to make two outstanding diving catches on line drives to rob Derek Miller and Tyson Gingerich of hits, and another huge moment came in the game’s final moments.

    After Braden Mast couldn’t come up with the ball with a sliding attempt on Haas’ grounder to the hole at third leading off the inning, Coshocton head coach Scott Loomis took a gamble…and lost. He had Haas rolling on the pitch and Hiland’s Bryan Yoder cut him down at the bag at second. Mullet took over from there and ended the game with a pair of strikeouts, and the Hawks were on their way to the Chillicothe regional.

    “We had to make something happen,” said Loomis. “That’s been our style all year, to be aggressive. We tried to make something happen and their catcher made a great play.”

    The aggressive attitude mirrored with the Redskins’ approach to this game.

    “We came in here confident that we had a chance to win the ballgame, and unfortunately, we couldn’t get that hit with runners in scoring position,” Loomis said. “We didn’t get a lot against Mullet, but we had several opportunities to get runs in. It just didn’t work out.”

    Coshocton wasn’t the only team that missed opportunities. Hiland sabotaged its own scoring chances with base running blunders.

    With two on and two out in the second, Kobe Miller was picked off first by Coshocton catcher Andrew Mason to end the inning. But a more critical mistake came when Hiland was threatening in the fifth.

    With Hiland up 1-0, Zach Coblentz got on with a one-out bunt and moved to third on Chris Kline’s single up the middle. It prompted a pitching change for Loomis, who brought in ace Talon Babcock. On Babcock’s first pitch, chaos ensued, as Coblentz broke home early on a suicide squeeze and Tyson Gingerich made no attempt on the ball at the plate. Coblentz made it close at home, but was tagged out, clearly on some kind of miscommunication, but it kept the Hawks from extending their lead at a critical time late in the game. Haas then made a fantastic play when Gingerich smashed a liner to center on which Haas made an acrobatic diving grab.

    “We talked about it during the pitching change,” said Gibson of the failed suicide squeeze play. “I don’t know why our runner broke early, and I don’t know why our batter didn’t bunt it. We had our best bunter at the plate and a good base runner on third, I couldn’t believe it. We’ll address it tomorrow.”

    Hiland scored the lone run of the game in an inning when it looked like they had nothing going in the third. For the second game in a row, Kline and Gingerich teamed up with huge back-to-back, two-out hits. Kline drilled a line shot just to the right-field side of Haas in center and turned it into a hustle double with a head-first slide into second. And as baseball would have it, Gingerich, who had been retired on line-outs to second and center in his other two at-bats, dumped a floater into left field to plate Kline with what turned out to be the game-winner.

    As district runner-up, Coshocton wrapped up its season with a 20-8 record. Connor Roahrig led off the game with a bouncer up the middle for the lone Redskins hit. They suffered 11 strikeouts at the hand of Mullet, who walked just one. Logan Hough took the loss for Coshocton, tossing a fine 4 1/3 innings, surrendering one run on four hits, striking out two and walking one. Babcock finished the final 1 2/3 hitless innings.

    Hiland (25-2) moves on to the regional next Thursday, May 26 at 11 a.m. in Chillicothe Paint Stadium. The Hawks were led by Kline’s two hits, with Gingerich and Coblentz accounting for one single apiece.

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    Hiland outlasts Garaway to hit 50 straight in IVC

    Posted on May 13, 2016

    by John Mast

    It’s tournament time and the Garaway Pirates baseball team has been peaking at the right time, winning its first two tournament games, and they are on a late-season roll. So, the chances were good that their season-ending clash with Hiland would be a battle.

    Neither squad played their best, but it was a battle nonetheless, as Hiland led early, fell behind, and rallied late to take down the Pirates 9-5 in a contest between two teams with their eyes more focused on the tournament trail.

    “We knew coming in that we weren’t going to show our hand pitching-wise,” said Garaway head coach Justin Elmore. “That’s not a knock on the guys we threw. We trust those guys, and they didn’t do a bad job, we just gave up a few too many free bases at times and Hiland hit the ball in key situations.”

    Neither Garaway’s Austin Miller nor Hiland’s Eric Mullet saw the mound on Thursday, but in the early portion of the game, the Hawks’ Braden Mast and Pirates’ Quinn Miller were doing a nice job of effectively keeping their teams in the ballgame.

    Hiland broke through in the top of the second, when Mullet’s leadoff double led to the first run of the game on Derek Miller’s sharp single to make it 1-0. While the Hawks were busy leaving five men in scoring position over the first three innings, Mast was working his way through the Garaway lineup with minimal issues.

    After getting through the first two innings unscathed, Mast got the first two outs in the third, when an infield error extended the inning before he plunked Quinn Miller and Dallas Foster to load the bases before another error allowed two runs to score for a 2-1 Pirates lead.

    The Hawks had four errors on the night and the Pirates took full advantage, with only two of their five runs being earned.

    “We didn’t play our best baseball obviously,” said Hiland head coach Tom Gibson. “We made too many throwing errors, we didn’t pitch as well as we have in the past…I just felt like we could’ve played better. But we won, I’ll give them that.”

    And win they did.

    After a Mast double and Kobe Miller single tied it at 2-2 in the top of the fourth. Hiland threatened to take the lead on a two-out Chris Kline single but Micah Van Fossen gunned Miller at the plate with a perfect strike from center.

    Garaway took the lead right back off Hiland reliever Derek Miller in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Miller hit Tanner Pettite, who scored on a Van Fossen gapper to deep left, and he trotted home on a single by Trey Hershberger to put the Pirates in command 4-2 heading into the fifth.

    But the resilient Hawks bounced right back, when Tyson Gingerich walked and scored when Bryan Yoder jerked a long double down the left field line. Yoder scored to tie the game at four on a fielder’s choice when the relay to first on an attempted double play was too late to get the speedy Andy Miller at first.

    Hiland built on its lead and threatened to blow the game wide open in the sixth, when Derek Miller and Chris Kline singled, followed by another Gingerich walk to load the bases off of Garaway reliever Derek Briggs. Miller just beat the throw to the plate on a Yoder swinging bunt and a Mitch Massaro produced a sac fly to left, before a wild pitch scored Gingerich to give the Hawks a 7-4 lead.

    But the Pirates wouldn’t quit.

    Singles by Van Fossen and Austin Miller got a pair on and Quinn Miller’s single brought Garaway back to within two.

    But a huge two-out Gingerich single in the seventh gave Hiland a 9-5 cushion and Massaro closed out the game to give the Hawks the win and their third consecutive undefeated season in IVC play. It was their 50th consecutive league win.

    Winning sixteen games in a row to sweep a single season is a feat in itself, but the Hawks have done it three years running. Does it matter to Gibson?

    “Sure, it matters,” he said. “It has to if you’re a competitor. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t be out here.” He noted that the streak has set the tone for incoming and current players, setting a precedent from year to year.

    “I told the guys, we’re so much better than we’ve played. We can’t do this in the tournament. But I always look for ways to improve. We played a nice game and we won,” Gibson said.

    Elmore was proud of the way his team battled back against a team like Hiland.

    “This was not, by any means, a step back for us,” he said. “I was very happy we had a game like this in between tournament games. It was very good for us. We just need to make sure we’re a little bit better if we get an opportunity the next time.”

    The schools could meet again next week. Elmore and the Pirates face Coshocton in the Division III District semi-final Monday, May 16 at West Holmes High School. Hiland will play Martins Ferry on Monday at Muskingum College at 5:00 p.m. If both squads win they face each other again on Wednesday, May 18.

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    Seminoles line up, Mullet sits ‘em down as Hawks spank Monroe Central 16-0

    Posted on May 11, 2016

    by Dave Mast

    Seminoles line up, Mullet sits ‘em down as Hawks spank Monroe Central 16-0

    Ten little Seminoles standin’ in a line,
    One went down swinging and then there were nine;
    Nine little Seminoles stridin’ to the plate,
    One swing and a miss and then there were eight.
    Eight little Seminoles looking up to heaven.
    One got smoked and then there were seven;
    Seven little Seminoles carrying their sticks,
    One went down lookin’ and then there were six.
    Six little Seminoles all tryin’ to stay alive,
    One kicked the bucket and then there were five;
    Five little Seminoles watching it pour,
    One bit the dust and then there were four.
    Four little Seminoles trying to break free,
    One got befuddled and then there were three;
    Three little Seminoles didn’t know what to do,
    One, two, three strikes and then there were two.
    Two little Seminoles didn’t get it done,
    Swing and a miss and then there was one;
    One little Seminol, nowhere to run,
    He followed the rest and then there were none.

    That little ditty is a play on “Ten Little Indians,” a minstrel show tune written by Septimus Winner in 1868.

    Little did Winner know that his tune would define the effort of the Monroe Central Seminoles as they faced Hiland senior Eric Mullet in the opening round of the Div. III Sectional at Hiland High School Tuesday, May 10.

    On a cold, dreary evening, the Seminoles rolled into Lehman Field, hopped off the bus and lined up to take their cuts against Mullet, who hasn’t given up an earned run since Winner penned his song more than a century ago.

    Actually, it was 88 innings ago, and after the 16-0 shutout of Monroe Central, Mullet’s OHSAA record of not allowing an earned run had been extended to 95 innings or so.

    What made this feat even more amazing was how he got to that number.

    Mullet struck out the first 10 Seminoles he faced in the game, giving up the first ball in play in the fourth inning with one out. His perfect game would disappear in the fourth when he walked his first hitter, and then a single followed in the fifth, ruining the no-hitter. But in typical Mullet fashion, and in a moment very apropos for this game, he fired three fastballs by the final hitter to end the game with 13 whiffs in the 15 outs he recorded.

    “Nothing Eric does surprises me any more,” said Hiland coach Tom Gibson of his ace’s performance.

    While Mullet was magnificent, the Hiland bats were just as lethal. Few things didn’t go Hiland’s way in the meeting of a one-seed versus a 19-seed, outside of the very first batter of the game. Chris Kline reached on an error and went to second on the errant throw, and as Gibson looked in to give signs to the next batter, Tyson Gingerich, Central’s pitcher twirled and picked Kline off second.

    “I was looking in to give signs and never even saw it happen,” said Gibson.

    That was the last highlight for the Seminoles, outside of the ground out that ended the strikeout string at 10, the walk and the single.

    Hiland’s fun was about to begin.

    Gingerich doubled, as did Bryan Yoder, to make it 1-0. Then came the second inning, when the number 10 became significant yet again, as the Hawks posted a 10-run inning in which they sent 14 hitters to the plate. In the ruckus, Zach Coblentz banged out two hits, Gingerich spanked his second double of the game and the Hawks pounded out seven hits.

    Mullet came in and threw 16 pitches, none of them finding their way into play.

    Hiland would come in and plate three more, including a towering fly ball off the bat of Mullet that clanked high off the scoreboard of the Lehman Monster in left field.

    Late in the fourth inning, a mother of one of the Seminoles was describing the action on her cell phone, presumably to her husband.

    He comments spoke volumes, as she explained to her husband that this Hiland team was incredibly well-coached, fundamental and “you can tell they practice hard because they play the game the right way.”

    For the game, Gingerich recorded three hits, including two doubles, scoring three times. Mullet, Yoder, Braden Mast and Coblentz all notched a pair of hits.

    It was total domination from start to finish for Hiland, and as the rain continued to fall throughout the contest, Gibson substituted with abandonment, hoping to simply get through the game before the heavens opened up.

    “We made it through, and nobody got hurt, so that was the best thing that came out of this,” said Gibson. “Really, we were supposed to come in and take this game, and we did what we were expected to do. That hasn’t been the case for too many games this season. We have let teams hang around too long. It was nice to see us start early and keep playing good baseball.”

    The win improved Hiland to 21-2 on the season, and marches them one game closer to their goal of a state berth. The Hawks won’t look ahead past anyone, but if they get this kind of effort, they can be a formidable team, regardless of what division they are playing.

    Just ask any of the Seminoles, who slashed, whiffed, fanned, missed and walked back to the dugout dragging their bats in disbelief, as one buy one they were set down in a row.

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