Hammel’s first-pitch dominance takes pressure off bullpen, shuts down Timberwolves


Quincy University right-hander Jay Hammel delivers a pitch during Saturday's game against Northwood in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional at QU Stadium. | Photo courtesy Olivia Kindt, QU athletics

QUINCY — A walkie talkie hangs from the netting stretched around the Quincy University baseball team’s dugout and always within Hawks coach Matt Schissel’s reach.

It’s how he communicates with the bullpen during a game.

Saturday, he hardly touched it.

Right-handed starter Jay Hammel alleviated any pressure on Schissel and the bullpen during the final game of the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional, throwing seven scoreless innings and guiding the top-seeded Hawks to a 9-0 victory over fifth-seeded Northwood at QU Stadium.

“There was never a point when I was on the walkie talkie in panic mode with seven guys warming up and trying to figure out which route we were going to go.” Schissel said. “It was pretty calm the whole time.”

There was never a reason to get worried.

The Timberwolves had only two runners reach second base in the first six innings. In the seventh, a leadoff single, a two-out single and a hit batter allowed Northwood to load the bases, but Hammel induced an infield popout to end the threat.

He allowed five hits, while striking out five and walking only one. He threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced during an 84-pitch effort.

“He was on it,” QU center fielder Brock Boynton said. “He was following through. He going downhill. He was working balls low. Gino and I were in the outfield talking and they were swinging every first pitch. There were some things from out there that looked pretty goofy. Hambone was on his stuff today. He was on his stuff.”

So was the defense and the bullpen.

The Hawks committed just one error, while tracking down 11 flyballs. Right-handed relievers Chase Gockel and Cruz Meier finished the game, each throwing a scoreless, hitless inning of relief before the celebration began.

“It gives me full confidence knowing we have a defense like we do as much as it does knowing we have relief pitchers who haven’t thrown all weekend and can come in if we need them to,” Hammel said. “Eight other guys have my back who will make a play and go all out for me. I can throw my best stuff and say, ‘Here it is.’

“If they hit it, I know we’ll get it. Sometimes I don’t even turn around, It’s like, ‘Oh, Brock’s got that one.’ I know they can get it done.”

Northwood couldn’t hit it.

“He just kept the ball down,” QU coach Matt Schissel said. “It led to a lot of soft contact today.”

It gave Hammel another one of those magic moments you only experience if you’re on the mound.

“It’s what you dream of as a kid,” Hammel said. “You think about it all the time growing up. To live it out, it’s unbelievable. I knew how much fun it was last weekend. So I knew I wanted to enjoy another weekend like it and extend the season having as much fun as we can and keep it going.”

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