SHABBONA – A first-inning fastball to Hinckley-Big Rock’s Luke Winkle changed the entire complexion of Monday’s game against Indian Creek.
Winkle lined the 1-0 pitch from Indian Creek starter Jake Wieseler over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, which helped jump start the Royals to a 16-0, five-inning victory over the Timberwolves in Little Ten Conference play. The Royals stayed even in the LTC championship hunt with Somonauk as the Bobcats beat Hiawatha, 3-0.
The two rivals will meet again today at Kenny Field in Big Rock.
“That was huge, [Winkle] got us started – that was the turning point for us,” H-BR coach Brad Unger said. “Last week against Hiawatha we were quiet at the plate, today was a huge spark for us. We had so many good approaches, especially with two strikes.”
H-BR (15-5, 13-1 Little Ten) hadn’t played since Wednesday, but ended with 12 hits on the day – three coming off the bat of senior Zach Michels, who started a double steal in the first to make it 4-0.
“We came out exactly how we should have after a long break,” Michels said. “We were all really relaxed at the plate today and hit the ball well.”
The Royals made it 6-0 in the second as Bailey McQueen and Jesse Troutman drew walks ahead of a two-run double to left by Jake Shrader.
Meanwhile, H-BR sophomore right-hander Dutch Schneeman was in the groove. Schneeman earned the complete-game victory, scattering four hits, striking out six and not issuing a walk. He escaped the only T-Wolves (8-11-1, 8-6-1) threat of the day in the second inning.
Schneeman induced a fly ball after Chris Pickwell had singled and moved to third on a two-out double by Logan Lee.
“My team really started me out good there and the third inning was a huge confidence boost,” said Schneeman. “I just tried to hit my spots and throw as many strikes as I could.”
In that third inning the visitors sent 14 batters to the plate and tallied 10 runs on six hits. In the frame, Michels had a two-run single and Jake Ryan drove in three runs on a bases loaded walk and two-run knock. For the game Shrader, Winkle and Mitch Ruh each had a pair of hits for H-BR, while Lee went a perfect 2 for 2.
T-Wolves lefty reliever David Emanuel was able to send the Royals down in order the final two frames.
“You always want an opponent to do things to earn a victory all the time,” Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz said. “[H-BR] put the ball in play, we gave them some extra outs, but to their credit they were able to get that big hit. It was nice to see a senior like Logan get a couple solid hits on senior day and David did a nice job in relief as well.”