Hawks topple Canton Central Catholic on Massaro’s gem

    Posted on May 08, 2016

    by John Mast

    On a night when hits were at a premium and runs were even more precious, the visiting Hiland Hawks took advantage of Canton Central Catholic miscues and some timely hits of their own to down the Crusaders 2-1 in a clash between two vaunted Division III programs.

    Canton Central Catholic, the reigning Division III state champions, and Hiland, new to Division III this year, are both ranked in the top ten in the state. The powers collided on Friday night in Canton as the game took on a tone worthy of such a match up.

    Both teams had quality arms on the hill, with Hiland’s Mitch Massaro facing off with the Crusaders’ hard-throwing right-hander Clay Davies.

    The Hawks got things going by playing small ball in the third, when Zach Coblentz walked to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to second by Chris Kline’s bunt. Coblentz advanced to third on an infield single on a bouncer to short by Tyson Gingerich and scored on a Bryan Yoder ground ball single between third and short that had the feel of a hole on a mini golf course with a pendulum obstacle as the two fielders converged but neither glove could come up with the ball.

    Meanwhile, Massaro was dealing on the mound, as he was mowing through the Crusader lineup after surviving a deep double to left center in the first. It didn’t go unnoticed by Hiland head coach Tom Gibson and his staff.

    “We were going to go with Mitch through five, then bring in Eric (Mullet) to get him some work, but Mitch was dealing such a hot hand we decided we weren’t going to do that,” he said.

    Hiland would help build its lead in the sixth, when CCC again presented an open door and the Hawks barreled right through. Eric Mullet was drilled in the back leading off the sixth and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Braden Mast. Up came Kobe Miller, who bounced one through the hole on the right side to score Mullet and give Hiland a 2-0 lead for Massaro.

    Both teams went quietly in their next at bats, setting up a dramatic bottom of the seventh.

    Davies aided his own cause by leading off the inning with a sharp single to center. Massaro induced a harmless fly ball to right and a fielder’s choice, before Ray Schembeckler hammered a two-strike double to deep left center just beyond the reach of Coblentz to make it a 2-1 ballgame. 

    But Massaro got Cameron Ruffin to fly out to shallow center to end the threat, and the ballgame.

    “I see what we’re capable of,” said Gibson. “As disgusted as I was the other night (versus TCC), I’m ecstatic today. We were focused, we came to play, we made great plays on defense and we put the ball in play against this kid, and he was a good pitcher.”

    In a preview of a potential rematch down the road in tournament play, neither team threw their ace, but Massaro and Davies certainly did their jobs and more.

    Massaro got the win, going seven innings, giving up the lone late run on only four hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. Davies took a tough loss, going seven innings and surrendering two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking one.

    Kobe Miller had two hits for the Hawks, driving in what ultimately was the deciding run. Davies and Schembeckler each doubled for the Crusaders.

    With the win, Hiland stands at 21-2 on the season, with their final IVC game, a makeup at Garaway, scheduled for Thursday. The Hawks host Monroe Central in tournament action Tuesday, May 10.

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    Hiland rips Malvern to rack up 20th win

    Posted on May 05, 2016

    by John Mast

    The Hiland Hawks baseball team, still smarting from a poor showing the night before in a win over TCC, would have no part of a replay Wednesday night in Malvern as they mercied the Hornets 13-0 in six innings.

    After scoring one in the top of the first when Tyson Gingerich singled, stole second, moved to third on a balk and scampered home on a Bryan Yoder ground out, the Hawks went quietly in the second.

    When Malvern loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning off of Hiland starting pitcher Damien Kandel, the bad memories were again creeping to the surface. But a slick 6-4-3 double play got the sophomore righty out of the inning and maintained the lead for Hiland.

    After a scoreless second, Hiland blew it open in the third, dropping a five-spot on the Hornets with hits by Braden Mast, Chris Kline, Gingerich, Yoder and Eric Mullet to make it 6-0.

    The game deteriorated from there, and Hiland would roll to a lopsided victory, scoring three more in the fourth on a singles by Zach Coblentz, Yoder and Mitch Massaro, and a double by Kline.

    Needing just a run to end it early, the Hawks piled on in the top of the sixth, plating four more on hits by Yoder, Kobe Miller, Andy Miller and Coblentz.

    Kandel got the win for Hiland, going four innings and surrendering no runs on two hits, striking out four and walking two. Cameron Miller tossed two hitless innings in relief, striking out three and walking one.

    “We played with a little better approach to the game tonight,” admitted Hiland head coach Tom Gibson. “We’ll see going forward, we have some tough tests coming up in Garaway tomorrow and a very good measuring stick in Canton Central Catholic on Friday.”

    With the win, Hiland improves to 20-2 on the season, and is 15-0 in Inter-Valley Conference play.

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    Hiland survives TCC with an ugly end to an ugly game

    Posted on May 05, 2016

    by John Mast

    Tuscarawas Central Catholic has been a feisty bunch this year for the Hiland baseball team. It’s been a somewhat challenging season for the Saints, with a number of freshman playing and a very short bench. In their first meeting, the Saints made things interesting against the Hawks, before falling late 8-4.

    Tuesday at Hiland would be no different, other than for most of the night it looked as if TCC would hang the first league loss in 40-odd games on Hiland, but the Hawks pulled out a 4-3 victory in nine innings to keep their streak alive.

    The Saints got on the board early against Hiland starter Braden Mast. Beau Beamer led off the game with a single and was sacrificed to second. A walk to Dean Green put two on before Austin Dick’s two-out single to center drove in their first run. The throw to the plate was cut off, but the relay to third went wide, and the ensuing throw home was bounced in and TCC owned an early 2-0 lead.

    With Ty Columbo on the mound for the TCC, the Hiland bats were never able to gain any traction off the lanky right-hander. Chris Kline led off with a walk and stole second, but three quick outs got the Saints out of trouble and Hiland never really threatened through the first three.

    Meanwhile, Mast had really settled in, facing the minimum through the next four innings as he and the Hiland faithful awaited the slumbering bats to come alive.

    In the bottom of the fourth, they finally broke through.

    A Mitch Massaro walk got things rolling, and Tyson Gingerich dropped down a beauty of a bunt to get two on with nobody out. Mast advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt with the hopes of Kobe Miller delivering a hit to tie the game.

    Deliver he did.

    Miller opened up and yanked a blast deep to right field for a three-run homer that gave Hiland a 3-2 lead, and with Mast in a groove on the mound it looked like if they could just plate another run or two they could put it away.

    But it was not to be.

    The Hiland sticks remained quiet against Columbo, and the Saints finally got to Mast in the sixth. 

    After a pop up retired Beamer, AJ Henry walked and was picked off first on a missed bunt attempt by Green. With two outs things looked good for Hiland, but Green then singled up the middle, and the inning took on an oddly suitable feel for the way things had gone all night for the Hawks.

    With two outs, a ground ball was mishandled by Kline and a slow bouncer with a mind of its own ricocheted off of Mast to load the bases. Having had two opportunities to escape the inning unscathed, Mast was unable to get out of it now and walked Braden Culler to force in the tying run before getting a strikeout to avoid further damage.

    Columbo would retire the side in order the next three innings.

    Meanwhile, Bryan Yoder came on for the Hawks in the seventh and twirled three fine innings of his own, holding the Saints hitless over three innings of work while striking out three and walking two.
    It would be good enough.

    Gingerich led off the bottom of the ninth with a shot up the middle for a single and was sacrificed to second by Cameron Miller. A Kobe Miller fly ball to fairly deep center moved Gingerich to third and set up a very anti-climactic win for Hiland when Andy Miller’s bouncer to third was fielded cleanly and air mailed over the first baseman’s head to end the game.

    “I’m disgusted,” said Hiland head coach Tom Gibson of his team’s less-than-stellar approach to the game. “We lacked effort and we lacked focus.”

    With tournaments around the corner, it’s not the kind of showing any coach wants to see out of his squad.

    “If we don’t step it up, we are in trouble,” Gibson reasoned.

    As for the nuts and bolts of the game, Hiland outhit TCC seven to four, with Gingerich delivering a pair of singles and Kline a single and a double. Austin Dick had two hits for TCC.

    On the mound, Yoder got the win in relief for the Hawks, while Columbo suffered a tough loss, going the distance and giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits while walking three and striking out three. Mast also had a strong outing, after suffering through a rough first inning, going six innings and surrendering three runs, only one earned, on four hits while walking three and striking out six.

    Hiland moves to 19-2 on the year and is scheduled to travel to Malvern to continue IVC play on Wednesday.

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    Hiland rides Miller’s one-hitter to down Trojans

    Posted on May 05, 2016

    by John Mast

    Coming off a strong outing in a losing cause at North Canton Hoover last Wednesday, Hiland’s Derek Miller found himself on the hill again Monday night as the Hawks hosted Newcomerstown.

    Oddly, even though Miller threw very effectively in tossing six innings of one-hit ball for a 10-0 Hiland win over the Trojans, his performance against the Vikings was likely the most impressive.

    After Miller retired the Trojans in order in the first, he received all the support he would need when the bottom of the inning turned ugly.

    Chris Kline lead off with a walk, stole second and came home on a Mitch Massaro two-out single. Tyson Gingerich then dropped a nifty bunt down the third base line, and, as the Trojan infield congregated around the ball, Massaro sped to third. When Newcomerstown tried to make a play on Massaro, Gingerich advanced to second, drawing a throw which bounced into left-center, allowing Gingerich to come all the way around to score, giving the Hawks a 3-0 lead.

    It would be more of the same in the second inning, as Zach Coblentz led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a Kline single. After an Eric Mullet double and a Bryan Yoder sac fly the lead was six.

    Doubles by Kline and Yoder had a hand in single tallies for the Hawks in the third and fourth inning, respectively. Two hits, two walks and an error allowed Hiland to finish the job in the sixth, with the tenth run of the evening coming with an Andy Miller bases-loaded walk forcing home the game-ending run.

    With Brandon Septer the only Trojan to record a single, eight Hiland starters had at least one hit, with Derek Miller and Kline having two apiece in the Hawks’ 11-hit attack.

    On the mound, Bailey Guy took the loss for Newcomerstown, as he was tagged for eight runs (six earned) in his 3 2/3 innings of work. Guy was hurt by his six walks to go with eight Hiland hits. Brayden Russel surrendered the final two Hiland runs.

    For the Hawks, Miller struck out six and walked three with his defense providing an errorless effort behind him in support of his one-hitter. Hiland’s defense has been looking much more like what was expected earlier in the year and seems to be rounding into form. It must be noted that shortstop Chris Kline almost pulled off a ridiculous play on Septer’s single in the second, when he did his best Omar impression, ranging deep in the hole at short and bare-handing the high bouncer on the outfield grass. His throw to first was just a hair late to get Septer.

    It’s a good defensive roll to get on heading into tournament play, which begins Tuesday, May 10, as #1 seeded Hiland (18-2) will host #18 Woodsfield Monroe Central (2-13).


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    Cards feel the pain of Hiland’s rain-out with Chippewa

    Posted on May 05, 2016

    by Dave Mast

    Usually in a rain-out, neither team is a monumental winner or loser.

    However, recently a rained out game led to heartache for one team, a team that wasn’t even involved in the initial rain-out.

    When the Hiland Hawks game versus state-ranked Chippewa was rained out Thursday, April 28, the team that suffered the most was the Sandy Valley Cardinals.

    That was because thanks to the rain-out, the Cards got to enjoy the pitching of Hiland ace Eric Mullet.

    Mullet, whom Hiland coach Tom Gibson had tabbed to start the big game versus the Chipps, toted an Ohio High School athletic Association record 74-1/3 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

    That number grew to 81-1/3 when Mullet flipped a tidy little three-hitter to lead the Hawks to a 4-0 victory.

    The win improved Hiland’s record to 17-2, and they remained spotless in Inter-Valley Conference play, delivering a key blow to the one team that was still within striking distance of catching them.
    “Staying perfect in league is something meaningful to these guys,” said Gibson of the three-year stretch of having not lost a league game.

    With Mullet on the mound throwing goose eggs inning after inning, that streak wasn’t likely to stop on this night.

    The Hawks got all the runs they would need in the second inning off of Sandy Valley starter Nelson Mazden, who threw pretty well himself outside of the one bad inning.

    Mitch Massaro started the second with a single to center, before being forced at second base by Tyson Gingerich. Braden Mast then singled, as did Kobe Miller, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Derek Miller plated a run. Andy Miller then reached on an error to plate one run and Chris Kline singled in another to make it 3-0.

    Three runs isn’t insurmountable, but when Mullet is on the mound, it is a much tougher task than against many hurlers.

    Mullet allowed individual singles in the second and third innings, and walked a batter in the fourth. He allowed a single in the fifth, but no runner got to second base for the Cardinals.

    In the bottom of the sixth, the Hawks tacked on an insurance run. Gingerich walked and Mast dropped down a beautiful bunt single to start the inning. Both moved up a bag on a wild pitch, and after Kobe Miller walked to load the bases, Derek Miller popped out to second before Andy Miller delivered a sacrifice fly to plate Hiland’s fourth run.

    Mullet, who had struck out a pair in the fifth, struck out the side in the sixth as he only got stronger. He induced three straight Sandy Valley groundouts to end the game in the seventh, putting another stupendous piece of pitching in his scrapbook. “He’s is just going to go out there, battle and not hurt himself,” said Gibson of Mullet.

    Mozden scattered five hits, walked one and struck out none, but allowed just one earned run. Blake Offenberger pitched two scoreless innings in relief. Mast was the lone Hawk to collect two hits on the night, while Gingerich scored a pair of runs.

    Mullet allowed three hits, walked one while striking out eight in the dominant performance, a performance the Cards would have never seen had it not bee for a rain-out one night earlier in a game in which they were not even involved.

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