CENTERVILLE — All good things must come to an end.
The Indian Hills baseball team, however, is hoping this is just the start of a special season on the diamond.
Sixth-ranked (NJCAA DII) Southeastern handed Indian Hills a 7-5 loss in game two of an Iowa Community College Athletic Conference doubleheader on Wednesday at Pat Daugherty Field. The loss is the first of the season for the Warriors, who improved to 16-0 earlier in the day blanking the Blackhawks 8-0 in the opening game of the twinbill.
"It's just like Coach (Matthew) Torrez tells us every day," IHCC freshman infielder C.J. Castillo said. "Just play the game we know how to play. Don't worry about winning or losing. Just stay within ourselves and things will turn out well."
The Warriors could not overcome four errors in game two that ultimately allowed Southeastern to plate a pair of decisive unearned runs. Two-time All-Courier captain Austin Simpson also played a big hand in delivering IHCC's first loss as the former Fairfield first baseman collected three hits, including a double that kicked off a four-run rally in the fourth inning to snap a 2-2 tie in game two.
The Warriors played almost flawlessly in the field during the opening game on Wednesday. Nick Marshall helped keep the Blackhawk bats silent for seven innings, pitching a three-hit shutout while working around three walks in the first two innings, striking out six batters while stranding seven Southeastern baserunners in the first five innings.
"I struggled a little bit in those first two innings, but it helped me to believe in myself when I was able to get those big final outs without giving up a run," Marshall said. "After I got out of those jams, everything started working out. It all went pretty smooth."
Indian Hills was able to push the first run of the day across home plate after Noel Perez dropped in a double to open the second inning before scoring on a sacrifice bunt by Ricardo Van Grieken and a run-scoring groundout by Dave Janssen. Castillo then singled in the third inning and came all the way home from first on a single grounded up the middle by Pier Olivier-Boucher that was misplayed in center, leading to a mad dash home that set off a huge early celebration in the Warrior dugout.
"We always talk about putting the pressure on teams early in every game," Castillo said. "Once you do that, you just continue to build momentum."
Indian Hills built on the 2-0 lead created by putting the pressure on the Blackhawk defense. Olivier-Boucher stole second, forcing an errant throw that allowed the freshman outfielder to take third. Tucker Ebest singled home Olivier-Boucher, giving Marshall and the Warriors a 3-0 lead after three innings.
"It always helps on the pitching side when you're offense is coming through for you," Marshall said. "When you're getting tired late in a game, it gives you a little extra energy knowing you can trust your hitters to put some runs up."
Marshall was able to cruise to a complete game in the seventh after IHCC added five more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Castillo added a two-run double during the rally as the Blackhawks (18-6, 8-4 ICCAC) continued to struggle in the field, committing three of their five opening-game errors during the Warrior rally.
"During the past two years, we haven't really done very well," Marshall said. "You can tell there's a different feeling this year. You've got guys on this team that are willing to get in and do all the hard work we need to do to be successful throughout the season. The energy is just so different. These guys are committed to stepping up and performing every day."
Indian Hills (16-1, 11-1 ICCAC) returns to the diamond at Daugherty Field for a four-game series with NIACC on Friday and Saturday. The Warriors look to bounce back from their first loss with the first game of the series, scheduled to begin Friday afternoon at 1 p.m.