The Hanford Falcons put themselves in position to play for the Mid-Columbia Conference regular-season title after Friday’s sweep of Kamiakin at LaPierre Field, and more importantly, the top seed for the District 5/8 tournament.
The Falcons won the opener 4-2, then rallied from a three-run deficit to take the second game 7-3 behind some pretty savvy pitching by left-handed reliever Sawyer Henry.
“I didn’t want to look past Kamiakin, but we wanted to play for the league title and we will have a chance for that Tuesday,” said Hanford coach Tom DeWitz, who will host unbeaten Kennewick in the final MCC doubleheader. “We are going to have to play our best game. We are looking forward to it.”
The Falcons (10-2 MCC) were not at their best in the second game Friday, falling behind 3-0 as the Braves (3-9) scored two in the first and one in the third as starter Nate Mitchell struggled from the start.
Kamiakin looked to add a few more runs in the third as it had the bases loaded with one out, but Henry replaced Mitchell and quickly got out Tanner Owens and Philip Chen to end the threat.
Kamiakin starter Kaden Enriquez kept Hanford at bay through the first three innings, needing just 35 pitches and allowing just two hits. But the sophomore struggled in the fourth, walking the first two batters before a single by Aaron Enderlin loaded the bases.
A fielder’s choice by Damien Marks pushed the first run across for Hanford, and after David Juergens popped out to the catcher, No. 9 hitter McKaden Manderbach drilled a two-run double to the left-center gap to tie the score at 3.
Enriquez lasted one more batter, giving up a run-scoring double to Isaac Benard that put the Falcons out front for good.
Henry pitched the fourth, fifth and sixth, allowing just two hits and striking out five in picking up his first win of the season.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Sawyer,” DeWitz said. “We have a solid pitching staff and Sawyer is part of that. He’s hasn’t gotten to throw a whole lot because we have other guys. Today, he was huge for us.”
Henry used a mix of fastballs, curveballs and sliders to keep the Braves honest at the plate.
“I was just focusing on hitting my spots and keeping my curveball down,” Henry said. “I threw my slider quite a bit, and fastballs until they hit it, then I went back to the slider. My defense played really well behind me and (Enderlin) did a really good job calling the game. He knows the batters.”
Ryan Colson pitched the seventh for the Falcons, allowing two hits.
“It was a very good start and we had an opportunity to cash in and extend our lead, but we didn’t execute on the hill,” said Kamiakin coach Ryan Carter. “The middle innings, credit to their guys, they got good swings. Our guy (Enriquez) is just a sophomore and the Tuesday-Friday grind it starting to take its toll, but you have to suck it up and keep playing.
“Their lefty (Henry) did a nice job, they made all the routine plays and made us work for what we got.”
The Falcons tacked on three more runs in the fifth, keyed by a two-run single by Juergens and an RBI-single by Enderlin.
In the opener, Hanford struck first, hanging two runs on the board in first inning as Jamie Hopp and Colson drove in runs. The Falcons added two more runs in the top of the third for a 4-0 lead, only to see the Braves cut that in half in the bottom of the inning.
With two out, Tryston Drury belted a two-run home run over the left-field fence for a 4-2 game, but that would be as close as the Braves would get.
The home run was Drury’s second of the season. Both have been at LaPierre Field and both catching a tail wind over the left-field fence.
“We need to manufacture more runs than that,” Drury said. “We have had trouble stringing hits together this year. He (Hanford starter Jacob Anderson) wasn’t overpowering, it’s more in our preparation and the lack of energy in the dugout. What happens in the dugout translates into your game, which was nothing.”
The Falcons had a chance to add another run in the top of the seventh as Benard smacked the ball deep to the right-center gap. DeWitz held him up at third base, but wished he hadn’t.
“If I had any guts, I would have sent him around for an in-the-park home run,” DeWitz said.
Notes: Kamiakin’s Brandon Larsen was ejected from the second game in the fourth inning for arguing a strikeout with the plate umpire. ... Hanford’s Colson was twice hit in the head by a pitch in the second game — by two different pitchers. Kamiakin’s Easton Henke hit him in the fifth inning, while Ryan Vela nailed him in the seventh.
Hanford 202 000 0 — 4 6 0
Kamiakin 002 000 0 — 2 4 2
Jacob Anderson, Sawyer Henry (6) and Aaron Enderlin; David Marshall and Austin Hardy. Highlights—Isaac Benard (H) 2x4, 3B; Jamie Hopp (H) RBI; Ryan Colson (H) 2x3, 2 RBIs; Tryston Drury (K) HR, 2 RBIs.
Hanford 000 430 0 — 7 7 0
Kamiakin 201 000 0 — 3 10 1
Nate Mitchell, Henry (3), Colson (7) and Enderlin; Kaden Enriquez, Easton Henke (4), Ryan Vela (6) and Philip Chen, Hardy (5). Highlights—Benard (H) 2B, RBI; Anthony Porcaro (H) 2B; Enderlin (H) 3x4, RBI; Damien Marks (H) RBI; David Juergens (H) 2 RBIs; McKaden Manderbach (H) 2B, 2 RBIs; Drury (K) 2B; Hayden Burris (K) RBI; Dylan Keech (K) RBI; Marshall (K) RBI.