Williams walk-off opens postseason in style for Red Hawk baseball
As Cole Williams walked toward the batters’ box in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division Two baseball regional at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau Middle School last Thursday, the senior had no illusions over what the at-bat meant to his team.
It was the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Red Hawks had the bases loaded with one out while the scoreboard reminded everyone of a 1-0 lead for seventh-seeded Sparta.
Williams was looking for “his pitch”, he said, which turned into a hard hit ground ball that slipped under the glove of Sparta’s second baseman. Two runs scored, and the G-E-T dugout emptied for the walk-off 2-1 win.
“I had the same approach that I did all year,” Williams said. “Just tried to be calm and be myself, stay in the moment and provide for my team.”
His reaction when he saw the ball fly through the infield, though, drew a much more emotional reaction from Williams and his team — Williams launched his helmet high into the sky before his teammates ran to mob him on the basepath to celebrate advancing.
“I was just hyped realizing that it won us the game,” he said.
The second-seeded Red Hawks were scheduled to play third-seeded La Crosse Logan on Tuesday at home. Thursday’s final inning saw a bit of a whirlwind, as sophomore Jack Beedle got G-E-T started when he was hit by a pitch to earn first base.
A single from Owen Eddy–who paced G-E-T with two hits–advanced Beedle to second, and another hard hit ball off the bat of Ethan Stoner was bobbled in the infield to load the bases. Williams’ at-bat was the first against a relief pitcher for the Spartans after they lost their starter to injury on the Stoner single.
Coach Scott Hovell said G-E-T had their chances throughout the game but couldn’t get the final hit needed to bring in runs. The difference in the final inning was that his team forced Sparta to make plays by hitting infield singles instead of popping up weak fly balls, Hovell thought.
The Red Hawks stranded two runners in the first and left them loaded in the second.
“We just put the ball in play there. .. but for the most part today they (Sparta) just made plays until that last inning,” Hovell said.
Sparta’s very first batter started the game by reaching first base on a throwing error from G-E-T, and he scored four at-bats later with two outs to give the visitors an early lead. It was the kind of error that the Red Hawks have seen more of lately, but their coach said he never lost faith in his group.
“Truthfully, I just never felt like we weren’t going to come back and win,” he said. “This team is really gritty, and they kind of have a ‘Never Say Die’ attitude.”
Collin Handke threw all seven innings for G-E-T, getting the start because of his strong strikeout-to-walk rato–he was averaging five strikeouts for every walk this season coming into Thursday. He threw four of each against Sparta.
“He attacks hitters,” Hovell said, “and he makes guys put the ball in play.”
The early error on defense seemed due to nerves, Hovell thought, adding that the idea of the season being over appeared to be on his team’s mind through the first few innings.
But they did buckle down, and the early scare should motivate his team, Hovell said. After giving up the outright Coulee Conference championship to West Salem the week prior in another game where the Red Hawks appeared to be in their heads a bit, Hovell hopes that Thursday’s win brings the focus back.
“We talked about it and just said that we kind of got bailed out, and at this point (we’re) playing with house money. We very easily could have been beat tonight, so we just can’t play tight.”
G-E-T 6 Onalaska 3
The Red Hawks scored all six of their runs in the fifth inning to overtake their Mississippi Valley Conference foes at home last Monday.
Brenden Brady and Ethan Stoner both hit doubles, and Stoner’s brought in three runs to clear the basepaths.
Stoner got the start on the mound, going six innings while allowing five hits. He threw three strikeouts and three walks.
G-E-T 8 Black River Falls 2
A share of the Coulee Conference title was on the line for G-E-T in the regular season finale on Tuesday, and the visiting Red Hawks made no mistake, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Eddy, Williams and Beedle each had two hits to lead the Red Hawks, who got a strikeout and a walk from pitcher Thomas Haney. Haney allowed four hits in seven innings. Hovell said he was proud of his team for earning a conference title, even if it’s shared.
“I don’t know that before the season a lot of teams had us being in that mix except for us. We knew what we were capable of.”