MONTEZUMA — With Cale Van Wyk taking the hill, Lynnville-Sully’s Hawks looked confident. Despite having won just five games in the regular season, the Hawks showed up to the Montezuma High baseball field with a bounce in their collective step, ready to take on South Iowa Cedar League rivals North Mahaska.
Their confidence was not unwarranted, despite the lackluster win-loss record for the Hawks. Van Wyk — one of two seniors on the team — had an outstanding regular season, racking up 142 strikeouts and only allowing 33 earned runs in 80 2/3 innings.
However, Van Wyk’s opponents on Tuesday had some familiarity with him, which undoubtedly contributed to the result. North Mahaska’s Warhawks did enough to advance in the Class 1A baseball district playoffs with their 7-4 win over the Hawks.
The Warhawks put up a run on Van Wyk early, pushing one across on an error in the top of the first inning. When the Hawks had their turn at bat, they took full advantage of it, not wanting to go home without putting up a fight. With runners on the corners, Brandon Dunsbergem hit a groundball to third base that looked to end the inning, but the throw got away from the first baseman, allowing the Hawks’ first run to score.
Caleb James laid down a squeeze bunt that the Warhawks’ catcher assumed would drop foul, but it stayed in fair territory, and James was able to beat the throw to first base, giving L-S a 2-1 lead. Caleb VanderMolen hit a grounder out to shortstop that was thrown away. Dunsbergen tried to score on the play but was gunned out at home, but the North Mahaska catcher fired to third to try to nail James and end the inning and the ball sailed into left field, allowing James to score.
Van Wyk looked sharp after getting three big runs from his offense. He came out and caught two Warhawks looking at strike threes to retire the side. Even though the Hawks moved junior Zach Kaldenberg over to second base in the bottom of the second, they were turned away without a run.
Van Wyk got into trouble in the top of the third inning. With runners at the corners, an infield single pulled the Warhawks within a run. North Mahaska’s Taylor Legvold blooped a single over the shortstop’s head to tie the game at three. A walk loaded the bases, then a sacrifice bunt by Connor Hehli put the Warhawks ahead by a run.
Aj Hibler walked to load the bases for North Mahaska, and another walk drawn by Tye Burch scored the fifth run. Following a meeting between catcher Brandon Dunsbergen and Van Wyk, the L-S pitcher regained his composure, picking up a strikeout and a groundout to get out of further trouble.
The trouble would continue into the top of the fourth inning for Van Wyk. Trent Roose rocketed a double out to left-center field to lead things off. An error at shortstop on a bobbled ball put runners on first and second. Van Wyk struck out the next batter swinging, but a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position. Another error at shortstop, almost identical to the previous one, allowed the sixth run to cross the plate. Van Wyk would work out of that trouble to retire the side.
The Hawks and Warhawks traded runs the rest of the way until the 21st out was recorded, and the last on the L-S season.
The Hawks’ season was full of frustration. The team would frequently put up runs to start games at home, but visiting teams chipped away and stole wins away from the home team.
The Hawks will only be losing two seniors from this year’s team, which should provide it with some much-needed experience for next season. With the six juniors from this year moving up to their senior year, it makes sense that the Hawks would be able to hold onto leads with more composure.
All of those players will now have plenty of time to sharpen their skills for next season.