Saturday's Special District 6 baseball league opener could've been considered somewhat of a moral victory for the Horizon Christian Hawks. The reason for that optimistic outlook is because despite losing both games of a doubleheader, 4-3 and 6-4, to the highly regarded Weston-McEwen Tiger Scots, the outcome could've been much different for coach Joe Petshow's Hawks.
"We battled hard and obviously, both games could've gone either way," said Petshow. "They're (Weston-McEwen) a well-coached team and they played great baseball.
"For the most part, we played fairly well too, but they took advantage of their scoring opportunities better than we did. Other than that, they were both pretty evenly played games."
Weston-McEwen (5-1, 2-0 league), a 2011 state playoff participant, is the No. 3 ranked team in Class 2A/1A and they're a state title contender again this year. Nevertheless, the Hawks (5-4, 0-2) were not intimidated at all about facing the most formidable opponent that they'll probably see all year. Horizon had the go-ahead run at the plate twice in the final innings of the first contest and they certainly had their chances to win the second game as well.
"They're a good team and they had lots of success last year and they're obviously on their way to having another successful season," said Petshow.
In the 1 p.m. opener at Collins Memorial Field, Horizon had a golden opportunity to pull out a win. Senior starting pitcher Sam Anthony (10 strikeouts) hammered his first home run of the season and senior Jeff Wilkins singled in a run to help the Hawks build a 2-1 fourth-inning lead. WM came back to knot it in the fifth and then added two in the top of the sixth to take a 4-2 advantage.
In the bottom half of the frame, HC had two base runners and Micah Engel batting while representing the go-ahead run. The Hawks were unable to score, though, as it remained 4-2 after six innings.
With WM threatening to score some insurance runs in the seventh, the Hawks defense stepped up big to keep them within striking distance. The Tiger Scots loaded the bases, but the Hawks' rock-solid defense prevented any more runs.
Wilkins provided another clutch hit in the bottom of the seventh. His RBI single drove in junior Jake Wells, who earlier drew a two-out walk, trimming the margin to 4-3. The Tiger Scots made the key defensive plays at the end, though, to hold on for the victory.
Mitch Engel worked the final two innings of Game 1 in relief and he started on the mound in Game 2. WM jumped in front 2-0 in the first and then extended its lead to 5-1 in the second.
"A four-run deficit isn't too much for us to overcome, especially if we're hitting the ball well," said Petshow. "We just didn't hit too well; but Mitch came in and did a great job."
HC rallied with a three-run third, highlighted by a two-RBI double by Wilkins (2-for-3, two doubles, run scored) and a Wells sacrifice RBI groundout, narrowing the margin to 5-4.
"We were close in both games, but there's just some little things we need to improve on," said Engel. "We have a talented team, but there's lots of room for improvement. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're headed in the right direction."