Hawks repeat 2017 feat by taking out district top seed
Lewis gives himself a birthday present:?a career night at plate, including 2-run HR, in win over Norsemen
STORY CITY — Sam Lewis turned 18 on Monday, the age that society says a child becomes an adult.
The boy certainly became a man on the baseball diamond during South Hamilton’s Class 2A District 13 semifinal against Roland-Story Tuesday night.
Lewis treated himself to a birthday present in the form of an offensive performance he’ll likely never forget, as he keyed South Hamilton’s celebration-inducing 4-3 upset at Norsemen Field.
Lewis finished 3 for 4 — he was a triple short of the cycle — with three RBIs and he scored the winning run in the top of the seventh inning that sent the Hawks on to Saturday’s district final against Aplington-Parkersburg.
“There was no doubt in my mind that we could beat them,” Lewis, a junior, said after South Hamilton avenged two regular season losses to Roland-Story. “We just believed in ourselves and did what we knew we could do.”
South Hamilton (10-13) upset a district No. 1 seed for the second straight season. A year ago, the Hawks stunned fourth-ranked Dike-New Hartford, 2-0, and this time it was rival Roland-Story that felt the burn.
“We’re born to be in this moment,” Mateo Balderas, a senior who provided the game-winning RBI single that scored Lewis in the final frame, said. “When it comes down to it, we play our hardest.”
There were plenty of backslaps to go around, but the night belonged to Lewis, the Hawks’ left-handed No. 2 hitter who was forced to primarily watch during his freshman and sophomore seasons because of a barrage of injuries.
In his first at bat, Lewis took a first-pitch fastball from Norsemen pitcher Zach Twedt and deposited it between the three flags that sit just outside the fence in center for a two-run home run that gave the Hawks an early 2-0 lead.
It was his first dinger — not of the season, but ever. Little league, USSSA, middle school, junior varsity; some 14 years of playing competitively and he’d never experienced the trot around the bases.
Not a bad time to end that drought.
“I mean, I had a lot of inside-the-park ones (when younger), but never one over the fence,” Lewis said. “Honestly, I don’t even remember it. I just hit it and I jumped the whole way home.”
Lewis had Twedt’s number again in the second inning with a RBI single to right that pushed South Hamilton’s advantage to 3-0.
And with the game locked at 3 entering the seventh, Lewis came through again. Looking for another first pitch over the plate, he hammered a Zach Shadlow offering into the gap in left-center that one-hopped into the fence for a double. Three batters later, he sprinted around from second and scored when Balderas poked a shot into right.
“My dad has always taught me to (swing at) the first pitch if it’s over the plate because that’s going to be the best one,” Lewis said. “I just saw both of them right over the plate and I wanted to do something with them.”
South Hamilton lashed at least one hit in each inning and out-hit Roland-Story (14-16) 10-4. DJ Klonglan, Zeke Balderas, CJ Hewitt, Cole Berg, Quinton Grove and Garrett Grady all provided a single.
Just like he did against Dike-New Hartford 12 months ago, Zeke Balderas was up to the challenge on the mound for the Hawks. The junior right-hander went six innings and allowed just four hits. He struck out 10, six of them on called third strikes, against just two walks.
“He threw his heart out,” Mateo Balderas said of his younger brother. “He threw for me.”
Roland-Story pulled to within one run in the third inning on a two-run home run to left-center by Shadlow, his fourth of the season and second against the Hawks.
“I just threw it outside and he took it to left field,” Zeke Balderas, who threw 102 pitches, said. “That was a lot of power. That wasn’t really my fault, he just put a good swing on it.”
The Norsemen drew even at 3 in the fifth following a lead-off triple to right by Nick Stole. Nathan Bell drove in the tying run on a sacrifice fly to right two batters later.
South Hamilton turned to junior right-hander Cole Berg in the seventh inning and he got out of a bases loaded jam by striking out Colby Gray to end the game and earn the save. One batter earlier, with runners at the corners, Hawks’ head coach Kyle Galetich elected to intentionally walk Shadlow and load the bases. Putting the potential game-winning run in scoring position didn’t alter his decision.
“It seems like (Shadlow) hits the crap out of the ball whenever we play them, so there was not a chance I was going to give him a chance,” Galetich said. “It was going to have to be somebody else.”
Berg was in a similar situation against Roland-Story back on June 15 when he stepped to the mound in a 9-9 game in the sixth inning. The Norsemen got the better of that match-up and plated two runs to win, 11-9, but Berg evened the score and then some on Tuesday.
“To come in and get those last three outs, that’s the toughest job in baseball,” Galetich said. “But Cole has played in big basketball games, he’s played in big baseball games and he’s just as cool as a cucumber. The pressure doesn’t bother him.”
After pitching his guts out over six innings, Zeke Balderas replaced Berg in left field for the final frame. But he had complete confidence in Berg, who similarly shut the door against D-NH in 2017.
“Last year against Dike, Cole and I did the same thing,” he said. “We’ve built trust in each other.”
South Hamilton and Aplington-Parkersburg (21-7) will meet up back at Norsemen Field at 7 p.m. on Saturday for the right to advance to next Tuesday’s Substate 7 final against either ninth-ranked Van Meter or Ogden in Marshalltown.
Can the Hawks pull off another upset? At this point, Zeke Balderas says why not?
“We have momentum,” he said. “We’re hitting the ball, we’re fielding it well. We just need to continue to put the ball in play.”
S. Hamilton 4, Roland-Story 3
Class 2A District 13 Semifinal
Tuesday at Story City
S. Ham 210 000 1 — 4 10 1
Rol-Story 002 010 0 — 3 4 0
Zeke Balderas, Cole Berg (7) and CJ Hewitt. Zach Twedt, Zach Shadlow (4) and Nick Stole. W — Z. Balderas. L — Shadlow. S — Berg. 2B — SH: Sam Lewis. 3B — R-S: Stole. HR — SH: Lewis; R-S: Shadlow. Multiple hits — SH: Lewis (3). RBI — SH: Lewis (3), Mateo Balderas; R-S: Shadlow (2), Nathan Bell.