Walk this way: Freshmen set stage for Hawks to stroll away as winners in GLVC tournament opener
MARION, Ill. — A glimpse at the future of the Quincy University baseball program enabled the present-day Hawks to see how to keep their championship aspirations on course.
It takes patience and persistence.
The two freshmen inserted into the starting lineup — Joe Huffman started just three games in the last month and Ben Dahlof started only one game during the regular season — drew back-to-back walks with one out in the ninth inning of Thursday night’s game in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.
It set the stage for a game-winning rally. Huffman scored when Brock Boynton’s single ricocheted off Missouri S&T third baseman Cole Hampton and ended up in left field. Two batters later, GLVC Player of the Year Luke Napleton drew a walk to send Dahlof home with the winning run in a 9-8 victory at Mtn Dew Park.
“Those guys prepare all year for that,” fifth-year first baseman Lance Logsdon said. “They came in during a big-time spot and proved they are really good players. They did what you want them to do when you put them in that spot. They just played.”
The Hawks wouldn’t have survived without them.
Huffman, who started at shortstop with junior Gino D’Alessio nursing an injury, went 2 for 2 with three walks and three runs scored, while Dahlof, who started in left field, went 2 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.
They kept top-seeded Quincy (41-9) in the winner’s bracket where it will face fifth-seeded Indianapolis at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“Oh my goodness, those guys were so key and so huge,” said Boynton, the senior center fielder. “They were instrumental in us winning the game.”
They helped the Hawks end a trend, too. The first three games played on Thursday’s opening day of the tourney were won by the lower seeded team. When the eighth-seeded Miners grabbed a 5-0 lead after the top of the third inning, another upset seemed to be in the works.
The Hawks refused to buy into that.
“Our dugout was the same the entire game,” Boynton said. “No one was pointing fingers. There was no bad energy. There were no bad vibes. It was all good, and we were riding that wave.”
Napleton and Logsdon hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the third inning to give the offense life after QU stranded four runners in the first two innings combined.
The Hawks scored three times in the fourth with an error on Boynton’s bunt leading to two runs and Logsdon delivering an RBI double.
“We found a way to keep chipping away,” Logsdon said.
The lead then changed three times over a four-inning span with the Miners capitalizing on the wildness of the Hawks’ bullpen in the eighth. Dahlof drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh before QU right-hander Chase Gockel walked three consecutive batters with one out in the top of the eighth.
QU coach Matt Schissel went to the bullpen and brought in Cruz Meier. The senior right-hander hit the first batter he faced to force in a run that tied the game at 7. After a foul out, the Miners’ Clay Burgess reached on an interference call, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Missouri S&T took that lead to the bottom of the ninth when D’Alessio struck out leading off as a pinch-hitter. Huffman and Dahlof walked to bring up Boynton.
“I was walking up and I was cool as a cucumber. I knew there was one out,” Boynton said. “I was thinking just put the ball in play. At the end of the day, I know (third base coach Chandler Purcell) is going to send Joe because he’s a speed-plus guy. I knew if I put a ball in the gap he was going to score.”
Boynton didn’t find a gap, but he hit the ball with enough authority the Miners couldn’t make a play on it.
“They call it the hot corner for a reason,” Boynton said.
Dustin Dupont walked to load the bases for Napleton, who stayed patient and drew the walk-off walk.
“My message throughout was you just have to keep playing the game because you never know what kind of break you’re going to catch,” QU coach Matt Schissel said.
The production of Huffman and Dahlof was an unexpected plus — a break if you will.
“They won the game for us,” Schissel said.
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