Altamont’s Jared Hammer knew he hit the ball solid. Fans heard the sophomore hit it solid. It was just a matter if the ball was going to stay fair or if the wind was going to blow the ball past the left field line giving the Indians a 5-4 victory over the visiting St. Anthony Bulldogs in extra innings for the National Trail Conference Championship.
The wind stayed just even enough as Hammer nailed a Seth Hotze pitch for a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning giving the Indians a 5-4 victory in the National Trail Conference championship game at Altamont, their second in a row.
It was 2-1, I was looking for a pitch to drive. I was focused on line drives,” Hammer said. “I don’t know, it was a nice inside pitch. I had good turn on it, and let her fly, man.”
St. Anthony took a lead in the first inning on an error by Indians centerfielder Nathan Shepard allowing Kennan Walsh to score, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Altamont scored two of their in the bottom of the third. With two outs, M Winn, running for Kaden Eirhart who walked, scored on a wild pitch by Colton Fearday tying the score. After another Fearday wild pitch, After a Logan Cornett single and a Tyler Robbins walk, Bradin Baucum singled scoring Cornett giving the Indians a 2-1 advantage.
St. Anthony put up three runs of their own in the fifth. Logan Antrim took a walk after Blanchette singled. Walsh singled to left field scoring Blanchette. Colton Fearday singled in Antrim and Walsh giving the Bulldogs a 4-2 advantage.
The Indians put a run on the board in fifth and sixth tying equalizing the game before Hammer’s heroics.
“Honestly, I thought it was going foul especially with the wind going that way,” Hammer said. “I was halfway to second when I realized it was going. Everyone was yelling and screaming.”
Coach Alan Whitt was overjoyed.
“Another great contest between St. Anthony and Altamont. It came down to the wire and Jerad came up with the big hit.,” he said.
The teams split decisions early in the season as the Indians took the first contest 6-5, as the Bulldogs took the second one 14-13 four days later.
“The competition level in the NTC is tremendously high, not only are you playing Ttown but also Neoga whose young and making their strides and Windsor and all these teams, it’s make it ready for tough competition,” Whitt said. The one good thing about our club is we have three seniors. And they’re good leaders. We have a lot of juniors and sophomores and freshmen who are ready to play. If they do their leadership role right, by the time they get to spring, they’ll be ready by next fall.”
Kaden Eirhart, who pitched seven innings allowing four runs with four strikeouts and giving up two walks, was relieved by Bradin Baucum earning the win for the Indians allowing two hits and getting a strikeout.
“He’s finally learning how to pitch and not be a thrower. Its made a dangerous, dangerous pitcher to get outs when he wants,” Whitt said of his senior.
St. Anthony’s Colton Fearday pitched four innings giving up two runs on three hits allowing two walks and had three strikeouts. Hotze took the loss pitching three 1/3 innings giving up three runs on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
“We gave ourselves a shot there and took a two-run lead. I think we executed a run-down by a our freshman outfielder hitting a relay,” St. Anthony head coach Tony Kreke said. “We gave ourselves a shot there in the seventh to close the door. It didn’t work out for us. They have a good hitting team. We had a few unearned runs tonight. That’s been our Achilles heel this year.”
Kreke gave credit where it was due to the Indians being prepared.
“Hats off to Coach Alan Whitt. He has his boys ready to go every game. It’s disappointing,” Kreke said.
St. Anthony had five underclassmen start for most of the season and defensive miscues were due to inexperience.
“If you would have told me we were playing in the championship game I’m not sure I would have believed you. We had a lot of ups and down this seasons. We’re grateful to just be able to play,” he said. Our defense has been a little bit weak, but that comes with inexperience.
I told the guys ‘If a game like this doesn’t put a fire in your belly going for the off-season to put on some weight, put on some muscle, work harder, whatever it be, I don’t know what will. There’s nothing that I can say or can do to make you that much harder than what this game just wanted you to do.”