DUNLAP – Kevin Hawley got exactly what he deserved Monday night.
A well-earned victory.
The Warsaw pitcher baffled Concord all night long as the Tigers edged the host Minutemen 3-2 in Northern Lakes Conference play.
Hawley, a cool and composed sophomore, went the distance on the hill. The right-hander kept the Minutemen off balance all night in pitching a masterful game.
Warsaw, which used its trademark small ball for the big win, improves to 11-12 overall and 8-5 in the NLC. Concord, which just had a 10-game win streak snapped Saturday in an 11-1 loss to Class 4-A No. 2 Elkhart Central, falls to 15-5 overall and 9-4 in league play.
“Kevin was outstanding tonight,” said Warsaw coach Mike Hepler. “He went right at their hitters and was ahead in the count. He changed speeds well and kept the ball down in the zone.
“He’s a real competitor out there, a very competitive kid. He’s matured a lot in the last week pitching against Elkhart Central, Northridge and then Concord tonight.”
Warsaw, which lost 12-1 in five innings at home to Concord back on April 26, had some tense moments late. After Hawley got the first two outs of the final inning, No. 8 and 9 hitters Taylor Miller and Connor Slabach got back-to-back singles for the hosts. Hawley then got leadoff man Cain Crowley to hit a grounder to third for the final out.
“This is important for our confidence most of all,” Hepler said. “To prove that we can beat a quality opponent. Tonight, we finally did that. We’ve been beating the teams we’re supposed to.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Josh Frantz reached on a bad-hop single, stole second and then went to third and scored on a pair of wild pitches.
Concord took the lead with a pair in the home half of the second inning. The Minutemen tied the game as Dakota Simon raced home on the back half of a double steal. Slabach then delivered a two-out RBI single to score Reece Misura, who had singled, stole second and went to third on a Tiger throwing error to make it 2-1.
Warsaw let a golden scoring chance get away in the fifth. Tanner Balazs cracked a leadoff triple into the right field corner to start the inning. Leadoff hitter Michael Miller then popped out to first, Josh Frantz struck out swinging after failing to get down a squeeze bunt attempt earlier in the at-bat and Shay Hepler grounded out to second.
The Tigers though got the bunts down in the sixth to take the lead. Jared Lemler started the inning with an infield single and Tyler LaFollette followed with a single to left. Jason Ferguson then put down a perfect bunt towards third that Concord pitcher Steve Pinarski could not handle in time to load the bases. Brandon Shipp then tied the game at 2-2 with a perfect bunt to score Lemler and Peter Shepherd then drove in LaFollette with a sharp grounder to short that Crowley had to make a diving stab of to retire Shepherd at first for the second out.
“We put the ball in play when we needed to,” said Hepler. “We missed that opportunity in the fifth, but we got it done in the sixth when we had to. Small ball is our game. We have one home run this season. How we win is by putting the ball in play and playing good defense.”
The Tigers got a huge 5-4-3 double play to end a Concord potential threat in the sixth. Second baseman Frantz, who had made an error with one out in the frame, made a gorgeous turn on the twin killing for Warsaw.
“He’s a good leader for us,” said Hepler of Frantz, one of six seniors on the Warsaw roster. “He came back and made a play for us on that double play.”
Hawley allowed six hits with five strikeouts and one walk to run his pitching mark to 2-3. He retired eight in a row at one point, using an outstanding straight change to keep the Concord hitters off balance and lunging all game long.
LaFollette led the Tiger offense with two hits. Shepherd had a hit and an RBI.
Slabach had two hits and Mason Eldridge a double for Concord.
Pinarski, a junior righthander, went the distance and took the pitching loss for the Minutemen. He allowed seven hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Senior righthander Crowley had pitched in the April 26 win at Warsaw, firing a three-hitter and also hitting one of three home runs for the Minutemen in that win.
Warsaw and Concord both play in the Class 4-A Elkhart Memorial Sectional, which starts on May 23. Pairings for the sectional will be drawn by the IHSAA on Tuesday (May 14) morning.
Warsaw, which snapped a three-game losing streak, plays at Elkhart Memorial Thursday. Concord hosts Tippecanoe Valley Tuesday and entertains Wawasee Wednesday.
Concord won the JV game by a 10-6 count Monday. Sterling Hay and Austin Perdieu each had two hits to lead Warsaw. Perdieu took the pitching loss as Warsaw drops to 11-10 overall and 7-6 in the NLC. The Tiger JV team finishes its season Thursday at Elkhart Memorial.