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With one pitch, the wait was over for Heart River baseball

BELFIELD -- Ian Silbernagel, deep in his southpaw bend, lunged from his perch on the pitcher's mound, digging his right foot spikes into the grassless infield dirt.

Heart River's Ian Silbernagel kicks and delivers during the first inning of the Cougars game against Shiloh Christian Tuesday, Heart River's first in program history. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
Heart River's Ian Silbernagel kicks and delivers during the first inning of the Cougars game against Shiloh Christian Tuesday, Heart River's first in program history. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

BELFIELD - Ian Silbernagel, deep in his southpaw bend, lunged from his perch on the pitcher's mound, digging his right foot spikes into the grassless infield dirt.

In a single motion, he transferred his pearl from glove to hand, kicking forward to deliver a fastball courtesy of the Heart River Cougars.

The pitch was a ball, a bit outside.

It tailed and nestled into the mitt of catcher Preston Walter, who promptly fired it back to the mound.

And for Heart River, facing Shiloh Christian on Tuesday, suddenly, it was as if baseball had always been.

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But it hadn't; the scorecards were all new, the uniforms fresh, the dugout chatter unrehearsed.

Silbernagel's pitch, the season opener at 3:31 p.m. of April 11, 2017, was the first in program history.

"I was really nervous before the game," said Silbernagel, a freshman. "I was thinking about it during school, about how it would go, it was a pretty cool moment."

The game itself had moments of imperfection; a few too many booted ground balls, lots of strikeouts, some dropped pop ups.

All that added up to an 11-1 win for the Skyhawks, and in an exhibition after the seven-inning game, a three-inning 12-0 victory for the visitors.

But it won't be about the score after the season, next year, or a decade later-it wasn't even about the score five minutes after it ended.

"We got outscored 23-1 and I don't think you'll meet a happier bunch of kids," said head coach Daren Kurle. "It was fun."

Silbernagel, given his uphill task, pitched well, going six innings and tossing 111 pitches, allowing nine runs, most of which were unearned.

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When he walked off the mound for the final time, his Cougars down 9-0 after six innings, Kurle had a message waiting for him and his team.

"What you guys have done," Kurle said, with a pinch of comedic relief, "is ensured we won't get 10-run ruled in our first game."

The team cheered.

The-Dickinson-Press-April-2017-picture-3281012.JPG
During a fifth inning mound visit, Heart River head coach Daren Kurle insisted everyone join.

There were batting gloves exchanged, first basemen without first base mitts, good-hearted cheers from the dugout and baseball jargon completely lost in translation.

Courtesy of Shiloh Christian pitcher Canaan Fagerland, the Cougars were 11 up and 11 down through 3 2/3 innings, and no-hit through six.

The player to the rescue, as was the theme on Tuesday, was Cauy Shypkoski. The shortstop was at the forefront of all the firsts.

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He made the first putout on a shallow pop fly, the first double play on a hit-and-run gone wrong, the first baserunner on a fourth-inning walk, the first hit on a roped double to start the seventh, and the first run scored a few batters later.

The record book was a bit bare entering the day. Shypkoski gave it a little more flare.

The-Dickinson-Press-April-2017-picture-3281025.jpg
Heart River players celebrate after a diving catch in the outfield by Logan McMahen.

"It was a relief," he said of his leadoff double that just crept over the head of the left fielder. "It was kind of cool to get the first hit in Heart River Cougars history."

Up 11-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, the only thing Fagerland and the Skyhawks had to fret was the possibility of a no-hitter.

Shypkoski ended that with a swing on a 3-1 count.

The hitting was apparently contagious, because the next batter, Anton Krebs, smacked a single of his own to center field.

Up next was Dion Madler, who grounded to second on a first and third hit-and-run, allowing Shypkoski to head home and cross the plate. He was greeted at home by a slew of delighted Cougar players.

It was the first run.

The first of many, hope the Cougars.

"We expected it to be tough-a lot of guys playing baseball that hadn't played baseball in a long time. When you're facing the ace of the staff, and you're able to put some runs, well, a run on the board-we had to wait to the seventh inning to do it, but hey, whatever it takes, I guess. I was happy," Kurle said. "To build a program, it's really special. I had a great time with it. It was just a matter of calming nerves. With more playing and coaching and practice, we'll be fine."

 

Shiloh Christian 11, Heart River 1

SC 312 102 2 - 11 8 0

HR 000 000 1 - 1 2 5

SC: Canaan Fagerland (7). HR: Ian Silbernagel (6), Dion Madler (1).

W-Fagerland. L-Silbernagel.

Highlights: HR: Cauy Shypkoski 1-2 BB, Anton Krebs 1-2 HBP, Dion Madler RBI.

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