DuPont hits it where Greyhounds can’t catch it, Hawks play stellar defense to advance
MARION, Ill. — No matter how hard Dustin DuPont hit the ball in his first two at-bats Friday night — he stung it with authority both times — University of Indianapolis center fielder Brandon DeWitt ran down those line drives for the first out in both the first and third innings.
“I got back to the dugout the second time and I said, ‘Aww, the next time I’m going to hit it anywhere but center field,’” DuPont said.
Quincy University baseball coach Matt Schissel was thinking the same thing.
“I told him, ‘Man, you have to find a different place to hit it,’” the second-year skipper said.
So DuPont put it where neither DeWitt nor anyone else could take it away.
DuPont launched a three-run home run to left field with one out in the fourth inning, giving the top-seeded Hawks a 4-0 lead in the second round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and propelling them to a 7-5 victory over the fifth-seeded Greyhounds.
“We kind of needed a little boost to really get us going a little more,” DuPont said. “Doing whatever I could to keep it going, and luckily it went over the fence. That’s all you can ask for, and it’s a great feeling.”
The Hawks, ranked sixth nationally with a 42-9 record, will face the winner of an elimination game between third-seeded Maryville and seventh-seeded William Jewell at 4 p.m. Saturday at Mtn Dew Park.
Junior right-hander Kobe Essien, who has pitched 8.2 consecutive scoreless innings, will get the start for Quincy.
“We still have a good amount of arms left in the pen and we have two of our weekend starters still to go,” DuPont said. “We’re playing good, maybe not the best we could be playing, but we have to battle through adversity. We’ve been doing that and everybody is pretty confident.”
The Hawks are playing quality defense, too.
That’s impacting how Schissel uses his bullpen.
Leading by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday, Hawks reliever Eli Ecton walked back-to-back batters after striking out the leadoff hitter. Schissel went to Nolan Roseman, who promptly got Dent Shepler to ground into a fielder’s choice.
Senior right-hander Cruz Meier followed and induced a game-ending groundout to DuPont at third base by the Greyhounds’ Nick Lukac.
“Both are sinker guys that are trying to get guys to hit the ball on the ground and they did their job,” Schissel said.
DuPont said the QU defense is consistently set to make those plays.
“It comes from preparation and always being ready and on your toes and ready to go,” DuPont said. “We’ve made plenty of really good plays over the last couple of games, and we’ll continue to do that. It comes back to preparation and trusting our pitchers to get us the plays to make.”
In turn, the pitchers have to throw strikes.
Three QU pitchers combined to walk 10 batters, two of which scored. Left-hander Griffin Kirn went 4 ⅓ innings as the starter, allowing four runs and four hits with six strikeouts and seven walks. A double to end the second inning helped him avoid danger, and he allowed just one hit through the first four innings.
In the fifth, however, the Greyhounds had six consecutive batters reach base safely after Kirn recorded the first out, leading to a four-run frame that cut QU’s lead to 6-4. Three of those six baserunners reached via walks, which led to Kirn getting pulled.
Brock Boynton’s RBI single in the seventh increased the lead to 7-4, but the Greyhounds kept fighting. They scored a run in the bottom of the seventh and tried to rally in the ninth.
“Everybody’s going to throw their best shot at us because a lot of these teams are fighting for a chance to keep their season alive and go to the regional,” DuPont said. “We just have to go out there and keep playing like we usually do.”
Lance Logsdon, Austin Simpson and Boynton each had two hits for the Hawks with Logsdon getting a single in the first and a double leading off the fifth, which broke the QU career record for hits. The Canton, Mo., product now has 275 career hits, one more than previous record holder Brynn Martinez.
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