WOODWARD — An inside-the-park home run is something that might, maybe, happen once for a team every few seasons.
Woodward-Granger (6-4, 5-2) posted wins of 17-5 and 12-2 over the host Woodward Academy in WCC baseball Thursday, but events that unfolded over two innings and in the course of 10 plate appearances were what made the nightcap one for the stat books.
Beginning in the bottom of the third inning, two W-G batters pulled a feat that the IAHSAA statisticians will, no doubt, be researching today.
The diamond at the Academy is enormous, even by professional standards. While it is 324 feet down the right field line, the left field fair pole is 354 feet from the plate while center field is 402 feet distant. Those dimensions create enormous amounts of outfield space, which hitters with enough power and enough speed can exploit.
W-G senior Race Brant did exactly that, sending a drive all the way to the fence in left-center in the bottom of the third inning. He sped around the bases behind Hunter Pifer and Bryce Achenbach, scoring himself before any attempt to throw to the plate could be made.
After a fly out, Brady Aunspach singled. He scored when Cole Theisen ripped a shot that sailed into nearly the same space in the outfield for the second inside-the-park homer of the inning and second in four batters.
Brant got back into the act in the top of the fourth, this time hitting a solo inside-the-park home run. His drives came in consecutive at-bats, gave the Hawks three such home runs in two innings and meant the team had produced a trio of such four-baggers over the course of 10 at-bats.
The Knights (0-12, 0-8) were the guests in the second game and went ahead, 1-0, with a run on two hits and a walk before W-G erupted for the two rarities and six runs in their half of the inning.
Four Hawk runs in the fourth made it 10-1, and two tallies in the bottom of the fifth offset a Knight run in the top of the inning to invoke the mercy rule and create the 12-2 win.
Brant was 2-for-4 with four RBIs, with Brady Aunspach 3-for-4 and Reese Jamison 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three steals. Jackson Larson added a double, with Marcus McConahay and Cole Moran also stroking base hits.
Dillon Fogarty threw four innings for the win, allowing one run on four hits while walking three and striking out four. Achenbach tossed an inning of relief, yielding an unearned run on two hits.
The opener saw W-G surge to a 6-0 lead after their first trips to the plate, but the Academy answered in their initial at-bat with four runs on one hit, two walks and two hit batsmen.
That chased W-G starter Nate Devick, who nonetheless collected the win. A four-inning save was credited to Brandon Worley, who was touched for an unearned run in the third inning. He allowed two hits and struck out five.
W-G used led, 7-2, after three frames, then scored six times in the fourth and four more times in the fifth to set the stage for an early conclusion.
All 11 Hawk hits were singles, with Brant and Aunspach recording two hits. Jamison and Matt Buch each drove in a pair of runs to highlight the offense, which received nine walks and stole eight bases.
W-G head coach Eric Evans said any history-making would “take care of itself” and that he was more pleased with how his team has played of late.
“We got to see how deep our pitching is the past two days with two doubleheaders and I have to say I liked seeing our young guys throwing strikes,” he stated. “Our batters are starting to take more walks while staying aggressive and that shows an understanding of situations and of the strike zone. We are cutting down on our errors in the infield, too, but we could still be a lot better.”
Apart from any as-yet-to-be-determined history Brant and Theisen may have made in the second game, Brant assured himself of the school record for career runs scored, as his four tallies Thursday raised his all-time total to 88, three better than Andrew McCune (2013). Brant broke the school record for career steals recently and now has 71 thefts. Jake Smiley (2014) held the old mark of 64.
Brant’s 43 hits last season was one shy of tying McCune for most in a single year, and he is closing in on McCune’s career record of 123 after ending play Thursday with 116 hits.
W-G will travel to Des Moines North today, with junior varsity action starting at 3:45 p.m. with the varsity game to follow.
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