Kirn’s bulldogged performance is further proof nothing can knock Hawks down for good
QUINCY — Griffin Kirn could have snuck away to the bathroom or a corner of the dugout at any point during the final two innings Friday to see just what kind of mark was left by the line drive that hit him squarely below the rib cage on his left side.
He didn’t bother.
It hurt enough without seeing the bruise to know there was going to be one.
“It didn’t hurt the rest of the game, at least not until I got done pitching,” said Kirn, a left-handed starter for the Quincy University baseball team who was hit by a line drive off the bat of Northwood’s Matt Magno in the third inning of their NCAA Division II Midwest Regional game.
“Then I came down to the bullpen to put my stuff away, and that’s when it started hurting.”
By then, the Hawks were officially a pain in the side of the Timberwolves.
Kirn allowed one run over seven innings, scattering nine hits while striking out six in Quincy’s 6-3 victory at QU Stadium that left the top-seeded team undefeated heading into Saturday. The Hawks (46-9) and the Timberwolves (42-18) will meet at noon Saturday.
Quincy needs to win once to advance to the super regional. Northwood must beat Quincy twice to fight its way through.
It’s going to take more than a shot to the ribs to make that happen.
The Timberwolves had runners on second and third with one out in the third inning when Magno smoked a line drive back up the box. Kirn took the shot, stayed with the play, fielded the ball and threw Magno out at first base without allowing a run to score.
Then everyone had to figure out if he was all right.
“It hurt pretty bad in the moment,” Kirn said. “He hit it hard.”
The QU training staff and Hawks coach Matt Schissel visited the mound with Kirn trying to stretch as the pain subsided. Determined to stay in the game, Kirn went back to the mound to throw two warm-up pitches to test how the pain felt.
Those pitches were clocked at 90 and 91 mph.
“My first warm-up pitch was my hardest pitch of the game they said,” Kirn said. “I just wanted to see if I could still ramp it up. I wasn’t trying to unload on every pitch. I was trying to locate today, but after that, I really wanted to zero in.”
Kirn finished the inning with a strikeout and an emphatic reaction.
“He was pitching great up until that point,” QU catcher Napleton said. “Then he gets hit, and I think it lit a little fire under him. He pitched phenomenal after that.”
Kirn allowed a run in the fourth, but he came back to get an inning-ending double play in the fifth, worked around a leadoff double in the sixth and stranded two runners in the seventh. The final out was a strikeout of Timberwolves cleanup hitter Blake Salamon, leading to roar from the sizable QU crowd.
“I haven’t been in a lot of jams this year, and everytime I get in a jam, I allow one or two runs each inning,” Kirn said. “To work out of those jams shows a lot for me. I’m able to pitch to contact and get a big strikeout here or there and always get out of it.”
It takes a bulldogged mentality, something the Quincy Notre Dame graduate carries with him to the mound every time.
“He was pitching aggressive, getting ahead in counts, really filling up the zone,” Napleton said. “He was really competing for us. It was exactly what we needed.”
It worked because Kirn was confident in his stuff.
“My changeup has been great all season, and I felt it was really good today,” Kirn said. “It was nice to see I got a couple of double plays with it.”
Once again, he showed nothing is going to keep this team down.
Not even a shot to the ribs.
“I felt like I almost got better after that,” Kirn said. “The adrenaline was pumping,”
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