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Freshman pitcher leads Hawks past Diablo Valley

Stephan Starnes

Sophomore catcher Bryan Case hits a single to the shortstop, who bobbles the ball, in the March 16 game against Diablo Valley College. Case scores the Hawks' second run after a base hit three batters later.

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As the north wind began to pick up and the dirt in the infield whisked around the players’ eyes, Cosumnes River College freshman pitcher Zach Stilwell took the mound.

After a four-pitch at bat to Diablo Valley College’s Cameron Rowland in the top of the first, Stilwell got the next two Vikings’ hitters out as well.

However, Rowland matched Stillwell’s effort in the first inning, as the lefty struck out two CRC batters and left a Hawks’ runner stranded on first.

The game stayed locked at zero until the third inning, when Vikings’ freshman second baseman Michael Lanter led off the inning with a single that squeaked by CRC’s shortstop Hunter Carolan.

After a sacrifice bunt from Rowland, Lanter advanced to second and reached third on a throwing error. Following the error, Vikings’ freshman first baseman Nick Gavello came up with two men on and only one out. Gavello ripped one to right field, but CRC’s right fielder Colby Wilmer sprinted towards the right field foul line and made a spectacular diving catch.

Only one run scored in the inning on the Gavello sac fly.

“[Zach] pitched okay, he struggled in the middle innings,” said Hawks’ head coach Tony Bloomfield. “But he commanded his pitches at the end and got out of a big jam.”

CRC answered the call and burst open for a five-run inning in the fourth. The inning started with singles from freshman third baseman Luke McDonald and catcher Bryan Case and a walk from sophomore Garrett Heisinger. The Hawks scored two runs on consecutive base hits.

Two more runs would be scored and the Hawks took a 4-1 lead.

CRC was not done and scored a fifth run on a safety squeeze from Carolan, bringing the score to 5-1.

“The last couple games they’ve [the middle of the order] been scoring the runs for us,” Bloomfield said. “The bottom of the order has been getting on for them.”

The Vikings came back in the sixth and scored two runs off the strength of a leadoff double from sophomore first baseman Devin Alexander, bringing the score to 5-3.

DVC threatened to tie the game up in the seventh, when they loaded the bases. DVC’s freshman shortstop Michael Brdar hit a grounder up the middle, but it was speared on a diving stop from CRC second baseman Michael Chavarria who flipped the ball to second for the force out and ended the inning in a 5-3 ballgame.

That would be the last real chance the Vikings had to score, as CRC freshman Shane Martin relieved Stilwell, who pitched seven innings, and shut the door.

“Zach pitched pretty good, I don’t think he had his best stuff today,” McDonald said. “But he battled through, our pitching is pretty thin right now, so he did a good job.”

The Hawks added some insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings on the strength of an RBI triple from freshman outfielder Josh Cosio. McDonald would add another run with an RBI single that sailed over the second baseman’s head.

“I got a pitch up in the zone, with a runner on third and just tried to put the ball in the air,” McDonald said.

With the 8-3 win, the Hawks brought their conference record to 4-2 and will take on Sierra College next week. Bloomfield said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“They [Sierra] don’t strike out much, they don’t get to two strikes,” Bloomfield said. “It will be a battle.”

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Freshman pitcher leads Hawks past Diablo Valley