Cougars fail to break out of offensive slump against NightHawks
Hettinger-Scranton's Pierce Maddox was the player of the game as the winning pitcher, striking out seven batters in seven innings.
BELFIELD, N.D. — It has been a season of adversity for the Heart River as injuries have piled on an already limited roster full of young talent. Even in defeats, a string of timely hits have complimented a superb pitching rotation to keep games competitive. That was not the case in their 2-0 regional defeat to Hettinger-Scranton on Tuesday.
The NightHawks (4-4, 5-7) already picked up a win against the Cougars (2-5, 4-8) in their home opener just a few weeks ago , but added salt to the wound with the shutout — Heart River’s first of the season.
“We are getting behind in the count,” Heart River’s head coach Kurt Silbernagel said. “Mainly the bottom of our order, they are swinging the bats timidly. They dig themselves a hole and it is a lot harder to hit when you are down 0-2, 1-2 in the count every at bat.”
The game winning run would come late at the top of the seventh inning with two outs. Tyler Wilson's lone hit of the game would send sophomore Joseph Perkins home first before he too would completed a lap around the diamond courtesy of fielding errors.
Both sides featured strong pitching on the mound, with the precision pitching that featured no batters being hit by a pitch.
Hettinger-Scranton’s Sophmore Maddox Pierce held the mound for the entirety of the game, throwing nearly 71% strikes out of his 72 pitches. In the seven innings, Pierce tallied seven strikeouts, four hits and zero walks.
The Cougars’ pitching rotation shared the mound with three pitchers taking the rubber, including two freshmen. Starting pitcher senior Tarence Dillinger, who delivered four strikeouts in 2.1 innings, was the top performer.
Luke Obrigewitch, switched out of the first baseman position in the third and toed the line for four innings, retiring four batters before Brayden Kastrow closed the game. Kastrow would allow only one earned run against the NightHawks.
“I was trying to preserve pitching because we got a double-header against Beulah on Friday,” Silbernagel said. “I kept Terrance and Luke Obrigewitch under 60 so they could pitch again on Friday… Castro came in and pitched that last inning and he pitched well. It is just that they got some hits.”
Heart River's defense dealt well with a lot of pressure from Hettinger-Scranton bats and aggressive runners, facing loaded bases in each of the first two innings before shutting the door. In total, the Cougars would leave 11 runners stranded.
Injuries have been detrimental to the Heart River season in recent years and this season has been no exception.
Third baseman Jordan Koppinger suffered a knee injury in their last outing and marks the fourth player out due to injury this season. Silbernagel said that Koppinger's absence was damaging not just in the field, but for their batting order. The coach admitted that he needs other players to "step up."
“Kids just struggle to get through football and basketball season and stay healthy,” Silbernagel said. “By the time they get to the baseball season, they are just beat up. It is frustrating because the potential is there but you can't control injuries… The bright side is that Tarence Dillinger, Luke Obrigewitch and Austin Buckman are hitting the ball really well. We just need those guys at the bottom of the order to start attributing.”