With the opening week of the 2023 Hennessey High School Baseball season pushed back ten days due to the State Tournament Playoff run by HHS Boys Basketball, the Baseball Eagles came out swinging in the opener against the Garber Wolverines in the Pioneer Festival at Pioneer-Pleasant Vale High School.  After giving up 2 runs in the top of the first inning, one earned, one unearned, Eagles starter Jakob Johns settled in and pitched all three innings, giving up only 1 hit and 1 walk, striking out 6 Wolverines, doing his part in getting the Eagles a 12-2 run-rule win.  Sophomore 2nd baseman Westyn Hopkins led the Eagles at the plate, going 2 for 3 with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored.  Every Eagle starter scored at least one run, reaching base on 5 Hits, 5 Walks, 1 Hit by Pitch, and 4 Garber Errors, while testing the Wolverine catcher with 10 Stolen Bases on 10 attempts.  The biggest hit of the game came when Senior Designated Hitter Regan Sturgill’s bases loaded, bases clearing double broke the game open, pushing the Eagles to an 8 run bottom of the first, kicking off the 2023 baseball season with a bang. 

Game #2 for the Eagles in the Pioneer Festival was also the 2023 baseball home opener, as the Festival sites are split between Drummond, Pioneer, and Hennessey.  The weather for the noon start versus the Stonewall Longhorns was cold yet sunny, as the Eagles started hot as their first three hitters reached base, with Seth Simunek leading off his second consecutive game with a Hit Batsman, and Westyn Hopkins and Hunter Weber getting on via walks.  Things quickly cooled off from there as the Longhorns starting pitcher struck out 3 straight Eagles to end the first inning threat without allowing a run.  Zeros covered the scoreboard for the first 4 ½ innings, as both teams threatened, but none scored until the bottom of the 5th.  Simunek lead off the 5th with an infield hit to 3rd.  Seth steals 2nd then 3rd on consecutive pitches.  After Westyn Hopkins walks, the Stonewall pitcher executes a “3rd to 1st” pickoff attempt.  Hopkins is ruled safe at 2nd, his second SB in two games, as Simunek slides across home plate for the first run of the ballgame. Langston Smith adds a run with an RBI single just inside the 3rd base bag.  Freshman Jarrett Smith bags his first base hit and first RBI as a Varsity Eagle two batters later, before Regan Sturgill plates two more on an 0-2 pop up that settles in no-man’s-land behind 1st base, giving the Senior DH 5 RBI in the first two games of the season.  With the bases loaded, Hopkins walks for the second time in the inning, forcing Jarrett Smith home to seal the run-rule victory 6-0 over Stonewall.

Games 3 and 4 of the Pioneer Mustang Festival did not fare as well for the Eagles.  After committing only one error in the first two games combined, Eagles’ defense fumbled away nine fielding/throwing opportunities in the 19-4 run-rule loss on Friday night to the Class 4A Dewey Bulldoggers.   Eagles’ batters also struck out nine times in five innings, overshadowing the 3 for 3 Varsity hitting debut of Freshman Catcher Hayden Hubbard.  Hubbard also scored one run and added one RBI.  Fellow frosh Jarrett Smith went 2 for 2, with one walk and one run scored from the plate, while giving up three hits, three walks, and six runs (only 2 earned runs), striking out three in his first pitching start of the season.  With the top 2/3 of the lineup going a combined 1 for 11, and the pitching staff giving up 12 walks and 7 total hits, with 19 runs (10 unearned) given up, the Eagles were as cold as the late-winter air in their loss.

Cold bats and iron gloves on a frigid Saturday evening led to the Eagles’ downfall in the final game of the weekend festival, with Hennessey mustering only one hit – a 2 out, 2 RBI single in the first inning by Sebastian Gonzalez, while walking 7 batters and committing 5 errors on defense, gifting the host Pioneer Mustangs the 10-2 win to wrap up the week.  Regan Sturgill got the start, giving up only three hits, striking out six Mustangs.  Of the 10 runs scored, only 3 were earned.

The Eagles, now 2-2 on the season, begin District play Monday night at the Chisholm Longhorns.

Story by Eaglevoice, Photos by Kenda Copeland