*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 14, 2016.
HASTINGS — On perhaps the warmest day of the year thus far with temperatures nearing 100 degrees at game time, it was Cameron Edwards who was hot.
The righty pitcher for Jackson Imperial Homes threw a complete-game, five-inning, perfect game in a 9-0 victory over the Norfolk Daily News Junior A’s. Edwards had command of his pitches early and was dominant throughout.
“He (Cameron Edwards) threw a great game. Actually, a perfect game,” Hastings coach Blake Marquardt said. “He located and dominated with his fastball. He jams a lot of hitters and later in counts he’s able to throw strikes. We kept them off balance.”
While Edwards went unscathed for the entirety of the game, he was especially dominant in a stretch that started in the second inning and ended in the third. Edwards struck out four consecutive batters during that stretch, in what would be an eight-strikeout day.
Although Edwards needed little assistance from the Hastings lineup, he received it anyway. Hastings pushed across a run in the top of the second inning after a scoreless first inning, thanks to two hit batsmen and an infield single. Daniel Opperman scored on a double-steal attempt and Hastings took a 1-0 lead.
That speed on the base paths, coupled with the amount of walks and hit batsman Hastings tallied, allowed them to stay aggressive once they got men on base.
“Well, we anticipated being aggressive on the base paths,” Marquardt said. “If they aren’t going to hold our runners we’re going to be aggressive.”
Hastings scored another run in the third inning, in what was a prelude for a monster fourth inning. Triggered by one walk, a hit batsman and two more walks, Hastings tallied six runs in the top of the fourth. Hastings batted around the batting order and Mike Shaw capped the offensive explosion with a two RBI single.
On the day, Hastings tallied seven total hits, drew four walks and were hit at the plate seven different times.
Ashten Valentine and Michael Shaw led the way at the plate for Hastings, finishing with two hits, two runs, two RBIs and two walks between the pair.
Pitching in the second game of a doubleheader when the pitcher in game one threw a perfect game is a tough act to follow. With that being said, JIP’s Tyson Gatto and Tyson Bonham did just that.
The pair pitched a strong seven innings and combined to allow just one run and four hits in a 7-1 victory to sweep Norfolk.
The strong pitching effort between the Edwards, Gatto and Bonham speaks to the depth of the rotation for Hastings this year.
“We’re very deep on the mound. Tyson Gatto is one of our top three or four pitchers. Tonight, I don’t believe he had his best stuff, but he only gave up one run, so it was a good game for him,” Marquardt said. “Then we brought in Tyson Bonham and we’re starting to look at him in the closing role. We have quality starts and we’re going to be that this year.”
Both teams started out slow, before Hastings broke open the game with a three-run second inning. During that inning Hastings tallied four hits in total and three in a row. Those three hits included RBI singles from Logan Noroby and Brian Warrick.
That stretch allowed Hastings to take control of the game and put pressure on the Norfolk defense.
“Our guys came in with a couple big hits in a row and drove in some RBIs. It changes the atmosphere of the game at that point,” Marquardt said. “It made them play a little more tense on the field.”
After allowing zero runs through three innings, Gatto found himself in a bit of a jam in the top of the fourth. He walked two batters and gave up an RBI single to Dylan Rodgers that allowed Norfolk to get on the board.
But after settling down, he forced both a fly out and groundout and go out of the inning with only one run of damage. Norfolk left the bases loaded in that inning.
Hastings added their final two runs of the game in the bottom of the fourth after two straight walks to begin the inning. With two runners on, Dylan Glaser drilled a two-RBI double down the right field line to extend the lead to 7-1.
Bonham pitched the final two innings and earned the save.
This set of wins is something Coach Marquardt hopes can propel the team through its next stretch of games.
“The loss to Kearney last night was a tough one and today, we came back and rebounded well,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep coming back and doing what we need to do.”