Vikings see lead slip away in regional loss to Buchanan
Momentum can be an elusive thing in sports.
One minute you have it. They next minute it’s gone.
Hopkins baseball coach Pat O’Dell and his players were reminded of that fact during the fourth inning of their Division 3 regional semifinal with Buchanan on Saturday, June 10.
The Vikings led the game, played in Coloma, 3-2 through three innings. In the top of the fourth, Hopkins starter Zach Brechting then retired the first two hitters he faced on a popup to second base and a flyball to centerfield, respectively.
Then one of Brechting’s pitches grazed the jersey of a Buchanan batter, sending the batter to first base. Then there was a double. Then a batter reached base on an error. Then Brechting issued a walk. Then a batter singled. Then there was another walk. Then there was another single.
By the time Brechting secured the third out on a ground out, the Bucks had pushed five runs across the plate—a rally that, as you recall, started with two outs and nobody on—to lead 7-3.
Buchanan added three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings while keeping the Hopkins offense in check to post the 13-3 mercy-rule-shortened win in six innings.
Hopkins had led 3-0 after scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning and once in the second. Buchanan made it a 3-2 game with a pair of runs in the top of the third.
“I thought we still had a really good chance even after they scored those runs in the third to make it 3-2,” O’Dell said. “We played hard the whole game. We just had some breaks go against us. Like my centerfielder made a great diving attempt and the ball just fell out of his glove. Those are the kind of breaks I’m talking about.”
Not that O’Dell was trying to minimize Buchanan’s role in the game’s outcome.
“Buchanan is a good team,” he said. “We knew they could hit and they capitalized when they had runners in scoring position. I tip my hat to them.”
With his team having taken over the lead, Buchanan starter Dalton Riddle did his part to make sure the Bucks held onto it.
Riddle retired all six hitters he faced in the fourth and fifth innings, including a pair of strikeouts. He finished with three hits allowed, one walk and four strikeouts in his five innings of work.
With the score at 13-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning, the Vikings knew they needed to score at least one run to avoid the mercy rule.
And Hopkins did put two runners on base against Buchanan reliever Jacob Hoover. Ezran TeHennepe drew a one-out walk and, following a strikeout, Caleb Ryan walked with two outs to put runners at first and second.
But Hoover got Austin Black to pop out to the first baseman, bringing the threat and the game to an end.
“We hit the ball well, it just went right at people,” O’Dell said. “I never thought we were out of the game, even down 13-3. We just knew we had created a huge hole to climb out of. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.”
O’Dell credited the Bucks’ defense for keeping his team off the scoreboard over the final five frames.
“They contained us in the final five innings because of good defense and because the momentum had shifted to their side,” he said.
Brechting worked the first 4-1/3 innings and took the loss. James Wubben pitched the final 1-2/3 innings in a relief role.
Hopkins finished the season at 25-8-2, winning OK Silver and district titles along the way.
“This was probably the team with the most energy I have ever coached,” O’Dell said. “I will miss my seniors. They have nothing to be ashamed. They had a great season.
“Next year’s team should be a good one as well. I have a lot of players returning who love the game and a great JV team that went 25-5 on the year. So I hope to continue to push for the league title again next year, but it will be a challenge.”