Grundy Center baseball staves off South Hamilton in district opener

Grundy Center's Logan Knaack crosses the plate for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Saturday's game with South Hamilton. (Jake Ryder photo)
Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

GRUNDY CENTER – Grundy Center ace Brayden Sawyer settled in after a rocky first inning and helped the Spartan cause with his bat as well for a 2-1 triumph over South Hamilton in a Class 2A District 6 quarterfinal at the Wilhelm Sports Complex on Saturday evening.

The Spartans (19-5) advanced to Tuesday’s district semifinal against Roland-Story in Dike.

Sawyer, wanting to make sure he could make the most of his start and still be available against the Norsemen, dealt out a lot of strikes in the game with the Hawks.

But South Hamilton was sitting on the first-pitch strikes early, and Gatlin Johnson ripped an RBI double to put the Hawks up 1-0 after a half-inning.

“They knew I would throw a lot of strikes,” Sawyer said. “So I started throwing more off speed and it was working.”

In the bottom half of the first, the Spartans answered with a leadoff double from Logan Knaack followed by a Sawyer fly ball that was dropped in the outfield to score Knaack and tie it up.

From there, Sawyer got into a groove and the Spartans allowed just one more baserunner the rest of the game.

Sawyer smacked a double to trade places with Logan Knaack in the sixth for the 2-1 Spartan lead. Sawyer was pulled at 65 pitches for Dayne Zinkula, who worked a three-pitch, two-out save to end the game.

“South Hamilton’s a good hitting team,” Grundy Center head coach Pat Brown Jr. said. “I told Patrick [Brown III, catcher] halfway back to the dugout after that first inning that we had to stop throwing so many strikes. … We had to hit the corners more, make them work a little bit. And Brayden’s just a phenomenal pitcher, he just had to be more of a framer instead of a finisher.”

Sawyer’s final line was one earned run allowed on three hits with nine strikeouts and no walks.

The Hawks didn’t all go down swinging, but the Spartan defense played a clean game, particularly in the outfield where Colin Gordon, Logan Knaack and Dexter Whitehill, from left to right, all had to step up to make plays.

Gordon is a late addition to that outfield corps after some rearranging of the lineup moved Tate Jirovsky to first.

“He’s an athletic kid and got a good read on the ball and he’s really adjusted,” Brown Jr. said. “He made a couple really nice catches tonight.”

Brown Jr. added that Grundy Center’s wealth of experience in tight contests allowed them to prevail against a South Hamilton team from a tough Heart of Iowa conference. And it’ll be an interesting showdown with another Heart of Iowa team, Roland-Story, on Tuesday.

“They play a lot of bigger schools, and it’ll come down to who they’ve got throwing,” Brown Jr. said. “But I think you take Brayden Sawyer and put him on the mound with those other eight guys around him and we can beat anybody.”

SH      ​100 000 0  — 1 3

GC      100 001 x  — 2 4


WP: Brayden Sawyer, 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. LP: Landen Skartvedt, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. GC: Logan Knaack 2-3, 2B; Brayden Sawyer 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI. SH: Ty Barkema 2B; Gatlin Johnson 2B, RBI.


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