Hawks hit better in loss to Clarkston, split at Deer Park
In baseball, free passes almost always come back to haunt a team.
That was true for the Blackhawks as walks and inopportune mistakes led to an 8-5 home loss to Clarkston last Tuesday and a 4-3 loss Saturday in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Deer Park. On the bright side Cheney’s bats came alive last week to produce 33 hits, including 16 in a 9-2 win in the Deer Park opener.
Austin Harding led the way at the plate in the win with four hits, including a pair of doubles, and 5 RBIs. Tanner Smith added three hits, Josh Arthur two doubles, Dominic Bonilla, Connor Netz and Tyler Gustafson a pair of singles each and Tanner Gamby a single as Cheney scored in the third and fourth innings for a 6-1 lead and capped things with three more in the seventh.
Blackhawks’ manager Randy Elam said Sawyer Sims pitched well in getting the win, starting out slow but getting stronger as the game progressed. The senior did struggle a bit in the third and fifth, with walks and hit batters contributing to Deer Park’s two runs, but managed to get out of the situations.
In the nightcap the Blackhawks opened a 3-0 lead through two and a half innings when Elam said they seemed to put the game on “autopilot.” Deer Park scored twice in the bottom of the third and two more in the bottom of the fifth against Cheney’s starter Netz.
Cheney threatened in the sixth, loading the bases with one out when Elam said Harding “hit a rocket to their third baseman” who snagged it for a 5-2-3 double play.
Netz took the loss, giving up five hits. Cheney produced at the plate with three hits by Bonilla, including a triple, along with two singles by Robbie Cook, a triple by Flippo and singles by Netz, Sims and Arthur.
“Again, the runs that they (Deer Park) scored can be directly attributed to walks and a defensive let down,” Elam said.
Tuesday against the Bantams the Blackhawks opened a 4-0 lead through three on a home run by Netz and single by Harding. But the Bantams, one game behind West Valley for the Great Northern League lead, crept back in, helped by walks and Cheney mistakes, narrowing the margin to 5-3 before a pair of walks to open the seventh opened the flood gates, leading to five Clarkston runs and the win.
Harding got the loss on the mound, relieving Alex Berman who pitched well after relieving starter Smith in the fifth, struggled to find the strike zone in the seventh. Harding and Netz both had two hits, with Bonilla, Flippo, Cook and Arthur each adding singles.
“We are walking too many and hitting too many,” Elam said. “This is something that we will correct, but in the meantime, it’s coming back to bite us.”
Cheney remains in fourth place in the GNL at 7-7, 7-9 overall with four games remaining, Tuesday with visiting East Valley, results next week, and next week at fifth-place Colville April 30 and the regular-season ending doubleheader at home May 4 with sixth-place Pullman. Elam said they have focused on hitting recently, and the results were evident last week.
“Once these boys figure out how to eliminate mistakes in critical situations, which they will, we’re going to have a lot of fun,” he added.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.