By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports
Kiowa Keith, Jacob Hall, Erik Murphy and Landon Hinckley played their last home regular season baseball game for Washington High School Monday.
It was an appropriate send-off as the Demons took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, then tacked on three more runs in the sixth for a 4-0 win over Center Point-Urbana.
?All four of those guys contributed to what we did tonight and helped us win,? Washington head coach Nathan Miller said. ?It is a reflection of how much impact they have had on our team this year.?
Keith played both second base and shortstop and reached base once in three at-bats. Hall played first base and scored the second run of the game after being walked. Murphy played left field and reached base twice in three at-bats. Hinckley was the designated hitter and laid down the perfect bunt on a squeeze play that scored and he reached first on the play.
?I was proud of how we ran the squeeze,? Miller said. ?We teach the kids to break late and they ran it to perfection.? Hinckley would later score the fourth run.
?These four guys? leadership is off the charts,? Miller said. ?I don?t know that I?ve had a collective group of seniors that were this cohesive in their leadership. They have really pulled us along this year and our young guys have picked up on it. We just have a great culture going on with our program and a lot of that is thanks to those four guys. It is exciting and fun to be a part of it.?
Kole Hinrichsen started on the mound for Washington. He pitched two innings and got five of the six outs with strikeouts. He walked one and gave up a hit. Luke Turner threw the final five innings from the mound. He struck out three, allowed three hits and walked one.
?Kole and Luke on the mound combined was a great performance,? Miller said. ?I think that is one of the strongest pitching performances of the year. Besides the second game at Mount Pleasant when we one-hit them, this was one of the season?s best. They should give Kole and Luke a lot of confidence for the postseason.?
With the postseason fast approaching, Monday night?s game was a good primer for the atmosphere of upcoming games.
?The intensity, the stress, the excitement of this game was really good to see and was similar to what a postseason game would be like,? Miller said. ?Our kids showed they had the ability to execute.?
The Demon defense committed two errors in the game but bounced back from them without letting the mistakes affect them.
?The kids have been great about letting whatever happens beforehand stay in the past,? Miller said. ?You can?t rewrite it, so make the next play.?
The defense came through in the final two innings.
?They tried to get a cheap run at the end of the sixth inning,? Miller said. The Storming Pointers had runners on first and third and tried to execute a double steal. ?Our kids executed the situation perfectly. Luke stepped off, looked at the runner, turned and went right at him.?
The rundown didn?t last long and the Demons made the play for the third out.
With no outs in the seventh and runners on first and second, the Demons got the first out on the lead runner going to third.
?It?s hard in high school to turn double plays up the middle, so we want to get the lead runner,? Miller said. ?The next ground ball, (third baseman) Chase McDole goes to his left, so he throws it to second and that was the second out.?
Hall got the third out unassisted to end the game.
?Execution was what we needed and that?s what the boys did,? Miller said.
Turner and Brant Stout each had two hits at the plate for Washington. Turner?s sacrifice fly scored Stout for the first run of the game.T
The Demons are batting .349 as a team this season. ?That is consistency and it?s a part of the process that we always teach,? Miller said. ?We have had a lot of different guys step up for us over the course of the season. There was certain guys coming through in the early part of the year and now different guys are stepping up in the latter part of the year. That is really nice to see. I like the balance in our lineup.?
The Demons scored three runs in the sixth inning from a walk, a single, the squeeze and one fielding error with two throwing errors.
?Granted the other team made three mistakes there, but a part of that is the pressure we were putting on them,? Miller said.
Center Point-Urbana has a record of 14-22. Washington is 21-10 and plays at Solon today.
?This team is playing for one another and competing for one another,? Miller said. ?That is a direct result of the leadership this group of seniors have displayed. I have to give that group credit. What a better way to send those guys out than with the victory. They have really pushed the guys to do their best.?