Super duper: Hawks score six times in first inning to extinguish Timberwolves’ hope, advance to super regional

G$ - QU vs NU (316)

The Quincy University baseball players celebrate after the final out in Saturday's 9-0 victory over Northwood to advance to the NCAA Division II Midwest super regional. | Photo courtesy Denny Sinnock, QU athletics

QUINCY — Eight innings remained, but any hope Northwood had of stymying the steamroller better known as the Quincy University baseball team evaporated after a single frame.

The Hawks weren’t surrendering a six-run lead.

Not one game from reaching the super regional. Not with Jay Hammel in control on the mound. And certainly not at home.

Top-seeded Quincy finished its dispatching of the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional field Saturday with a 9-0 victory over fifth-seeded Northwood at QU Stadium, outscoring its three opponents 33-11 and belting 12 home runs in the process.

“There is a different atmosphere that comes when you step into QU Stadium,” Hawks senior center fielder Brock Boynton said. “You have to worry about the long ball, you have to worry about the small ball and you have to worry about one through nine. You better pray you’re not going to get what’s going to come to you out of our bullpen because it’s a scary sight.”

The bullpen was the least of the Timberwolves’ worries before they were eliminated.

It was finding a way to keep the ball in the ballpark.

After Gino D’Alessio led off the bottom of the first inning with a double, Hawks third baseman Dustin DuPont smashed a two-run home run to right-center field for a 2-0 lead.

Quincy wasn’t finished. Luke Napleton walked, and after a lineout by Lance Logsdon, Nolan Wosman singled and Austin Simpson walked to load the bases. It set the stage for freshman Joe Huffman, who cracked a grand slam to right-center field for a 6-0 advantage.

Sure, eight innings remained, but the game was essentially over from a demeanor standpoint.

“All we wanted to do was come out there and stick it to them,” Huffman said. “Gino gets it started with a double and Dustin coming back with a home run, man, Northwood didn’t stand a chance from the first swing.”

Even so, Huffman knew he had to stay patient in his approach with the bases loaded.

“Just trying to let the ball get to me,” Huffman said. “I fouled off two breaking balls. I was like, ‘If I can just sit back on it, I can hit it well.’”

He hit it a long way.

“He’s looked comfortable the whole time in the box,” QU coach Matt Schissel said. “He’s done what we need him to do.”

Quincy University shortstop Joe Huffman connects for a grand slam in the first inning of Saturday’s 9-0 victory over Northwood at QU Stadium. | Photo courtesy Denny Sinnock, QU athltics

Everyone on this team has, which is why the Hawks are 29-2 at home this season and will play host to the Midwest super regional next weekend.

Quincy (47-9) will face Indianapolis (37-19) at 3 p.m. Friday in the first game of the best-of-three series. The Greyhounds won the other Midwest Regional as the No. 7 seed, defeating Maryville 11-1 Saturday afternoon. UIndy is only the second seventh seed to advance to a super regional since this format was adopted by the NCAA.

The winner of the super regional advances to the NCAA Division II World Series in Cary, N.C.

Quincy beat Indianapolis 7-5 in the second round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament on May 12.

This time, though, it’s at QU Stadium, where the Hawks have won 14 games in a row and the crowds keep increasing in volume — both physical numbers and decibel levels.

“It’s great to come play in front of everyone,” Huffman said. “People from all over the place are coming to support us. It’s a great feeling.”

It inspired right-hander Jay Hammel, who allowed just five hits over seven scoreless innings with five strikeouts and just one walk. He threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced and consistently worked ahead in the count.

And he did so with increasing confidence.

“Each inning, my team kept hyping me up,” Hammel said. “Seeing all the fans cheering us on and being loud helped a lot, too.”

So did being staked to a six-run lead.

“With being the home team — luckily — I knew putting up the first zero would be big,” Hammel said. “And I knew if we would score we would set the tone.”

Do that two more times and the Hawks will be bound for North Carolina.

“Just play our game,” Boynton said. “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. If we just play our game, we give ourselves a chance.”

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