‘The ball is going to find you’: Hendrian’s play off bench gives Raiders needed lift


Quincy Notre Dame first baseman Noah Lunt stretches to catch a throw to force out West Hancock's Gage Scott in the top of the first inning Monday at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Elliott Hendrian might as well have taken a flashing neon sign screaming “Hit it here” with him to second base.

The baseball gods were well aware he was there.

Quincy Notre Dame coach Rich Polak made an abrupt switch in the top of the fourth inning Monday, pulling starting second baseman Oliver Triplett and inserting Hendrian in his place. On the first pitch of the inning, West Hancock’s Jakeb Martens smashed a ground ball right at Hendrian, who gobbled it up and threw to first base for the out.

“The ball is going to find you,” Polak said.

It certainly didn’t ignore Hendrian, who made a backhanded stop on a ground ball up the middle the next at-bat and fielded another groundout the following inning. He also came through at the plate, driving in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning as the Raiders earned a 3-1 West Central Conference victory at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield.

“Obviously, you’re nervous, especially getting benched earlier in the year,” said Hendrian, the sophomore who earned the starting spot at second base when the season began but struggled with the adjustment to varsity. “But I just did what I was working on in practice. Field the ball first then throw. That really helped me.”

It’s been an everyday grind to get back in the lineup.

“I think the game was a little fast for him, but I think he’s caught up physically and mentally,” Polak said. “Today, he answered the call. He’s been working hard every day in practice. I probably hit that kid 150 balls every day. He came in there and did a great job for us.

“He’s a gamer and I like what the future has for him.”

The same can be said for junior right-hander Abram Wiewel, who outdueled the Titans’ Gage Scott. Wiewel allowed one run and six hits with 12 strikeouts and one walk over seven innings. Scott went five innings, allowing three runs and five hits with four strikeouts and one walk.

It was Wiewel’s fourth consecutive start allowing one earned run or less, a stretch in which he’s pitched at least six innings each game.

“He finds the strike zone and makes tough pitches,” Polak said.

It helps to have the defense make plays behind you, especially in Hendrian’s case when you’re just trying to get your feet under you.

“He’s been working hard at practice and it’s starting to pay off,” Wiewel said.

Yet, the Raiders (12-11, 7-0 WCC) found themselves trailing through three innings.

With one out in the top of the third, the Titans’ Mason Stevenson singled with one out, stole second base and scored on an error for a 1-0 lead. The Raiders tied the game in the fourth when Wiewel led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error.

In the fifth, QND’s Ethan Rose led off with a single, Cale Linenfelser dropped down a bunt single and Logan Sutton moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt. Hendrian followed with a ground ball to second base, but Rose beat the throw home to score the go-ahead run.

“It was kind of a big confidence booster for the whole team,” Hendrian said.

Wiewel brought home Linenfelser with the next run on a groundout.

“It felt like in the beginning of the game it was a little bit of a struggle to get things going,” Wiewel said. “There was not much energy. We knew we had to create some energy. We came out and put some things together and made things happen.”

It leaves the Raiders on the verge of a perfect run through the WCC. They will wrap up conference play Wednesday at Camp Point Central before embarking on regional play next week.

“Hopefully we can ride this momentum into the postseason,” Wiewel said.

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