Ever since its inception in the summer of 1926, the Hamel Hawks town team baseball franchise has been one of Minnesota’s most successful.
The Hawks won state titles in 1987 and 1997, however, going into the 2019 season, they had not qualified for a State Tournament since 2000.
Manager Tim Flemming has been rebuilding his team with young players the last three years, and the rebuilding project paid off with a berth in the State Class A Tournament last week. Although the Hawks’ appearance was brief, with a 6-1 first-round loss to the Minneapolis Cobras, there is no question Flemming and coach Greg DeVos have sewn the seeds for future success.
The Hawks-Cobras game didn’t end until 11:42 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9, at Dunning Field in St. Paul, prompting Hawks second baseman Bobby Isbell to remark, “We almost made it to the second day of the tournament.”
Pitching has been a staple of the Hawks’ 16-14 season, and for the most part, the pitching was solid in the loss to the Cobras, who got half their runs on one swing of the bat when Mason Reinhart homered off Hamel starter Blake Williams in the bottom of the fourth inning. Before the home run, the score was 2-1. Hamel had scored in the top of the third on an RBI single by third baseman Jarrett Briol.
It was a big moment for Briol because his hit came against the Cobras’ ace, former Major League pitcher Cole DeVries, who was reinstated for amateur ball earlier this season.
DeVries lived up to his advance billing against the Hawks, who had to adjust to his 92 mile per hour fastball and sharp breaking pitch.
Williams had a great fourth inning, when he struck out all three Cobras he faced. But in the fifth the Hamel righthander walked two before Reinhart hit the ball 380 feet over the left field fence.
“I knew we would have to play a perfect game to beat the Cobras,” Flemming said after the game. “Walks will hurt you in a game like this.”
As far as the Hawks’ battle with DeVries was concerned, Flemming said, “We took our hacks. He is obviously a really good pitcher. We have a lot of 20- and 21-year-old players on our roster, so the future is really bright.”
Hamel showed its mettle in the Riverview League playoff series that earned the Hawks their state berth. Flemming’s club won the first game in the best of three series 3-0, and then won the second game 6-5.
The Hawks are built on a nucleus of former Wayzata and Armstrong High players. Wayzata grads include the strong fivesome of pitchers Jake Marsh, Sam Westermeyer and Alec Lonson, Isbell at second base and Briol at third. Williams and catcher Brayden Gray lead the Armstrong High grads on the roster.
Alex Houlihan, who also had a base hit against DeVries in Friday night’s game, led the Hawks with a .319 batting average and first baseman Jack Rothstein batted .306.
Marsh, who will be a senior at Bethel University in Arden Hills this fall, didn’t allow a run in four innings of relief against the Cobras. Like Flemming, he is excited about the Hawks’ future.
“Coach Tim [Flemming] has been part of so many great Hamel teams,” Marsh said. “We want to carry on the Hawks legacy with him.”
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