Over the past couple of days, a lot of Oregon baseball fans have approached Hawks skipper Adam Albrecht.
The hot-button topic: how cool it is that two Big Northern West teams will square off in the 2A Byron Sectional championship Saturday morning.
“Me personally? I love it,” Albrecht said. “I love that it’s two Big Northern teams. You’re always kind of pulling for your conference.”
The other reason the matchup appeals to the upstart Hawks (14-14) and their faithful? The Hawks are eager to avenge two regular-season losses to the geographic rival Tigers (22-9).
“We really want to show that those games didn’t tell the story of this team,” Oregon senior Alex Cain said.
Cain took a tough-luck loss in a 4-0 setback April 9 in Oregon, allowing just one run and striking out 11 in six innings. The Hawks were a bit more at fault in a 6-0 loss in Byron 2 days later. They kicked the ball around to the tune of five errors.
That can’t happen Saturday morning, as the Tigers thrive on putting the ball in play.
“We’re going to have to play well defensively,” Albrecht said. “They will put pressure on you to make mistakes.”
The Hawks have played some of their best defense of late. In fact, every facet of their game seems to be clicking. Shortly after the BNC set against Byron, the bats heated up. At one point, seven Hawks were hitting over .300.
On Wednesday, Oregon faced Erie-Prophetstown’s Ethan Howard, whom no one seemed to be able to touch of late. Eventually, the Hawks broke through with a dagger-like five-run sixth inning.
Cain wants to see more crooked numbers Saturday morning.
“Our hitting is the X-factor,” he said. “If we get a big inning, it’s going to put the pressure on them, and they won’t be able to settle for one- or two-run innings.”
Cain leads the club in hitting, with intimidating avg./SLG/OPS slashes of .448/.678/1.216, but six different Hawks have driven in double-digit runs this season. Cain says the recent success from the top of the lineup to the bottom shows how contagious good play can be.
“When you see guys making plays or getting hits, you want to do the same thing,” he said.
The Hawks’ confidence is brimming collectively. Just ask catcher Joey Rowe.
“If we just keep playing the way we’re playing right now, we’ll make it all the way,” Rowe said after Wednesday’s victory. “I guarantee it.”
2A Byron Sectional championship
Who: Oregon (14-14) vs. Byron (22-9)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Byron High School