COUNCIL BLUFFS — All Ben Hecker wanted to do was get back on the baseball field.
St. Albert’s senior pitcher had waited 10 months for the chance. He and his teammates had practiced batting since last fall. They had practiced as a team the previous three weeks. And for Hecker personally, he had just finished finals and graduated.
Monday, the team was finally back on the diamond in the season opener against Abraham Lincoln.
“That’s a lot of stress off the shoulders,” Hecker said. “We’ve been going hard for three weeks of practice, and even before that, we’ve been hitting since November. It was much needed.”
Hecker’s effort Monday was worth the wait. After surrendering five runs over the first two innings, he settled down and shut out the Lynx the rest of the way, finishing the game with 11 strikeouts. He also added a two-run double and a two-run homer to pave the way for the Falcons’ 9-5 victory over the Lynx.
The Falcons’ ace couldn’t get much going early. He allowed four hits in the first two innings with three going for extra bases. St. Albert displayed some early-season jitters, too, committing two errors combined in those two frames while falling behind 5-3.
“I just told myself that I had to settle down or this game could get ugly,” Hecker said. “We all settled down by the third and brought it.”
St. Albert plated single runs in the third and fifth innings and two runs apiece in the fourth and sixth. Hecker, Alex Rindone and Nick Gantt — who connected on a fourth-inning, two-run homer — scored two runs apiece for the Falcons. Those players represent St. Albert’s Nos. 1 through 3 hitters, and they finished the game a combined 6 for 12 with six RBIs. After the early jitters, the Falcons finished the game with six unanswered runs.
“We talk about attacking and pressing all the time,” St. Albert coach Jim Lovely said. “That way, when we’re put in those situations to score runs, we’re more likely to succeed.”
A promising start didn’t pan out for the Lynx. They were able to scatter five hits over the last five innings, but they were unable to get a runner past second base in that span.
Abraham Lincoln starter Alex Crowl lasted five innings and scattered nine hits while striking out seven. He also finished with three hits and scored two runs. Connor Dean added three hits, an RBI and a run scored for the Lynx.
But the early-game production soon abandoned the Lynx, something for which A.L. coach James Larsen blamed himself.
“We didn’t prepare our kids for certain situations to an extent to get them ready physically and mentally, and I take full responsibility for that,” Larsen said. “That’s on us. The lack of focus and being in the game is our fault, and we’ll fix that.”
Abraham Lincoln (0-1) ............... 230 000 0—5 9 2
St. Albert (1-0) ............... 301 212 x—9 10 3
W: Ben Hecker. L: Alex Crowl. 2B: AL, Crowl, Connor Dean 2. SA, Hecker, Jake Lewis. HR: SA, Nick Gantt, Hecker.