Take one look at the Hastings Hawks' roster and you will see plenty of familiar names with one thing in common; youth. Over the past few years the Hawks have become progressively younger, especially this season as half their roster is made up of recent Hastings and Park of Cottage Grove graduates.
Hastings Raiders baseball fans will recognize the names of Cody Leflay, Cole Benson, Blake Warner, Cory Wolters, Mathew Nicklay, Cody Lewison, Brenden Kruger and Douglas Nordine as recent Raider graduates. Joining them are former Wolfpack players Jason Greeder and Austin Strantz. They make up a young core for the Hawks that will hopefully last for quite a while.
Manager Shawn Matson confirmed that Hastings is making a concerted effort to get younger using local Hastings and Cottage Grove talent.
"Yeah we're definitely trying to get younger with local Hastings and Cottage Grove guys," he said. "I see no reason why those two towns can't sustain a winning program."
However, in order to field those young guys, Hastings had to wait until the high school season was over and college players returned to their hometowns, which is often several weeks into the season. The Hawks are at full strength now as they head into the second half of the season.
"We pretty much have everybody back now," he said. "We're just starting to figure out a lineup that we'll use going forward heading into the playoffs."
Relying on so many young players has its advantages and disadvantages.
"The disadvantage is that a lot of the guys are younger and don't quite have the seasoning that it takes to compete," he said. "But we're out there, we're battling and we're learning on the fly as we go."
Matson said that the new additions have really strengthened their middle of the infield as he praised the play of Strantz, Warner and Greeder who have rotated at those positions.
Wins have been few and far between for the Hawks this season as they sit with a 2-17 overall record with about six games to play. On Friday, June 29, they were beat 7-3 by the Lake City Serpents at Veterans Park. They traveled to Dundas to take on the Dukes on July 1 and fell 12-0. Their Fourth of July matchup at home with the Hampton Cardinals was called off due to rain earlier in the day and field conditions.
Hastings received a solid start on the mound by Strantz against the Serpents but were not able to mount much offensively until late in the game. Strantz allowed just three runs on nine hits and a walk over the course of six innings before being relieved by Kruger. The Hawks trailed 2-1 after four innings with their loen run coming on an RBI single by Ben Bundschu.
Lake City added one run in the sixth and then blew the game open with three runs in the eighth to take a 6-1 lead. While Hastings responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth (an RBI-single by Warner and an RBI-double by adam Medlicott), they were not able to complete the comeback in the ninth.
Greeder, Warner, Medlicott and Strantz all had two hits for the Hawks. Kruger pitched 1 ⅔ innings of relief, giving up three runs on two hits and four walks as he struggled with his command. Finishing the game was recent addition Jesus Arteaga, who threw 1 ⅓ innings and gave up one run on three hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Hastings next plays on Sunday, July 8, at home against Cannon Falls and on July 11 at home against Elko.