FINALLY!

Hawks solve the Saydel puzzle, now 4-0

South Hamilton freshman Tycin Barkema (left) high-fives assistant coach Cole Swenson following a fifth-inning RBI single against Saydel on Monday in Jewell. The Hawks beat Saydel for the first time since the Eagles joined the Heart of Iowa Conference at the start of the 2012-13 school year. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — To say Saydel has owned South Hamilton on the baseball diamond would be quite the understatement.

The numbers — and, oh boy, are they lopsided — don’t lie. From 2012 to 2018, a span of seven seasons, Saydel won 13 consecutive games over the Hawks by a combined score of — brace yourself, Hawk fans — 152-31. Since joining the Heart of Iowa Conference in 2012, the Eagles shelled South Hamilton 12 straight times, eight of them ending early via the 10-run rule.

That’s knowledge that Hawks’ head coach Kyle Galetich and his players probably didn’t need, but it’s certainly easier to digest now that the spell has been broken.

And Zeke Balderas is a big reason why.

South Hamilton’s hard-throwing senior right-hander handcuffed Saydel for seven innings Monday evening at the Mike Penning Athletic Complex, as he twirled a three-hit masterpiece that included 13 strikeouts against just one walk in a 9-2 shelling of Saydel.

Cade Flaugh slides safely into third during South Hamilton’s win over Saydel on Monday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The win pushed the Hawks to 4-0 for the first time since … well … nobody really knows. That’s how long it’s been. But there was no celebration, only a quick look ahead to the next step.

“It’s something we expected this year,” Balderas, a four-year starter, said. “This all started last (fall) in football and we’re not surprised anymore.”

Pitching through torrential rain in the opening inning and battling through early control issues, Balderas found his groove by the third inning and silenced Saydel the rest of the way. Twelve of the final 15 outs were strikeouts and the Eagles (0-3, 0-2 HOIC) had just one base runner — Cal Gebheart reached on an error — over the final three innings.

“I had to get used to the environment because it started pouring in that first inning,” Balderas said. “But after I got comfortable I settled in and did well.”

It was night and day from the last time Balderas faced Saydel last June. He lasted just 1⁄3 of an inning in a 14-1 loss. But Galetich says another year of growth has only bolstered Balderas.

South Hamilton pitcher Zeke Balderas (left) tags out Saydel’s Payton Swafford (9) at the plate to end the first inning on Monday in Jewell. Balderas went the distance, allowed just three hits and struck out 13 in the Hawks’ 9-2 victory over the Eagles in HOIC action. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“His sophomore year or junior year, if things weren’t going well, there was no way he was finding it,” Galetich said. “But now, as a senior, he knows what to do. He finds a way. He pitched great.”

Saydel scored single runs in the first and fourth innings, both of which were unearned.

South Hamilton (3-0 HOIC) didn’t exactly rip the cover off the ball — the Hawks had just six hits, all of which were singles — but Galetich’s group made Saydel’s pitching trio work. Gebheart, who started, and relievers Logan Carney and Austin Pyles combined to issue 10 walks, five of which turned into runs.

“We did a good job of working counts and getting deep into counts,” Galetich said. “We battled and got on base. In the past, those games where we didn’t hit, we didn’t win.”

The bottom of the Hawks’ order was particularly disciplined. No. 7 hitter Brock Galetich walked and scored twice. No. 8 stick Freddie Lewis walked once, had two hits and scored twice. And No. 9 hitter Cade Flaugh worked three free passes and scored all three times.

South Hamilton first baseman Carter Hewitt (right) reels in the throw from pitcher Zeke Balderas as Saydel’s Cal Gebheart (19) dives back into the bag head-first during the first inning Monday night at the Mike Penning Athletic Complex in Jewell. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Cole Berg went 2 for 3 with three RBIs at the top of the Hawks’ lineup. Balderas had a single and drove in two runs, while Tycin Barkema added a run-scoring base knock.

South Hamilton went in front for good in the second inning with four runs. With Brock Galetich dancing off second and forcing Saydel second baseman Zach Bobenhouse to cover, Berg lined a shot right into the opening that brought the first run around to score. Balderas followed two batters later with a shot down the third-base line that plated another run and two more scored on a ground ball off the bat of Cade Balvanz that squirted between the legs of Eagles’ shortstop Cash Lee.

Barkema keyed a three-run fifth with a RBI liner into right field and Berg drove in his third run on a rope into right in the sixth.

South Hamilton was without leading hitter Sam Lewis, who injured his knee during Friday’s win over Nevada. The senior was limping noticeably Monday evening.

“I’m proud of our team as a whole because we played with two seniors (Balderas and Berg),” Kyle Galetich said. “It’s not an easy conference to win in when you’re young, but that’s a sign of our senior leadership. They’ve been successful in everything they’ve done and those seniors have that expectation that those younger guys are starting to feed off of.”

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

South Hamilton will face a stern test this evening when it makes the short trip south to Gilbert to take on the Tigers at 7:30 p.m.

South Hamilton 9, Saydel 2

Monday at Jewell

Saydel 100 100 0 — 2 3 4

S. Ham 040 032 x — 9 6 3

Cal Gebheart, Logan Carney (4), Austin Pyles (5) and Skylar Cardenas. Zeke Balderas and Elijah Balderas. WP — Z. Balderas. LP — Gebheart. Multiple hits — SH: Cole Berg, Freddie Lewis. RBI — SAY: Cardenas; SH: Berg (3), Z. Balderas (2), Tycin Barkema.

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