The first of a two-game series between the Lake Tomahawk Snowhawks and the Chicago All Stars was played Monday night before a huge crowd at Snowshoe Park, and it was the All-Stars who brought the wallop early.
Chicago was able to score in only three innings, but the eight runs they put up in those frames - including a grand slam in the fourth - were enough to take care of the Snowhawks 8-1.
The rest of the game was neck-and-neck, but the Snowhawk bats never got hot enough to dent the huge All-Stars lead.
Neither team scored in the first inning, but in the second the All-Stars came out hitting and peppered four straight singles. The last one by Ryan Maize brought in two runs.
The damage could have been worse, but Snowhawks right center fielder Donny Moore made a great catch and throw to home for a double play to stop the deluge at 2-0.
In the third inning it was more Chicago All-Stars as they again strung together multiple hits before Dave Maize sent one underneath the steps of the American Legion building in left field for a ground rule double and the score was 4-0.
In the bottom of third the Snowhawks' Jacob Hodgdon reached on a single and Paul Miller reached on an error, but Nick Merchx grounded into a double play to end the threat.
In the fourth inning the Chicago All Stars continued to stay hot. Chris O'Gara, Mike Maize and Mikey Maize all had singles and Pat O'Gara reached on a error. But the Snowhawk defense came up big again as right fielder Paul Miller made a catch and throw to home for a double play when the All-Stars tried to score a sacrifice run off a flight out.
But then, after another hit, with two outs and the bases loaded, Chicago's Brandon Maize came to the plate and sent a grand slam over the right field fence to make the score 8-0.
"We knew they can do that. I'm surprised we held them to eight, I really am," Snowhawks coach Jeff Smith said.
The Snowhawks would not allow another run the entire game. Their gritty, aggressive defense buckled down and the All-Stars couldn't find a gap the rest of the night.
Unfortunately for the Snowhawks, they couldn't score either.
"We weren't putting it in the right place. You got to get the middle and we were not hitting the middle," Smith said. "We were hitting right at guys and it didn't just come through today."
The Snowhawks did threaten in the seventh when Billy Kuckkahn, Donny Moore and Cole Punches all singled to load the bases with two outs, but clean-up hitter Brent Cella flew out to the end the inning.
The highlight of the game for the Snowhawks was the ninth inning when Paul Miller doubled and then Gunner Dunbar did the same to score Miller and break up the shutout.
Defense was the story for the Snowhawks as after the fourth inning they shut the Chicago All Stars out, only allowing scattered hits and keeping them off the base paths in the fifth and sixth inning.
"That's what we need to do to beat these guys," Smith said. "If you out-hit them you're OK, but if you don't you have to do something else and defensive-wise, that's where we usually come through."
The Snowhawks just couldn't find the gap, even though they were hitting the ball hard.
"Geez, I wish some of our balls would have gotten through," Smith said. "We hit a lot of shots right at people. We weren't putting it in the right place. You got to get the middle and we were not hitting the middle. We were hitting right at guys and it didn't just come through today."
The Chicago All-Stars ended up with 23 hits and the Snowhawks had 12.
"They played a heck of a game," Smith said. "But we'll get them Thursday."
The two teams faced off again on July 4 after deadline. Coverage will be in Tuesday's paper.
Jacob Friede may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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