That included both his season with Rock Hill High School as well as with Portsmouth Post 23. But in one inning, the southpaw doubled his trips to the dish and had a few chuckles about it.
“(I) just wanted to get up there and swing as hard as (I) can every pitch,” Branon said.
While Hackworth is not used offensively, his specialty is on the mound and he proved it at Chillicothe VA Memorial Stadium against Washington Court House Post 25. In a complete game effort, Hackworth was – with the aide of a strong offensive performance from his teammates – able to shut down the Aces and cruise to a 16-3 win in a District 7 quarterfinal.
“I give a lot of credit to my defense, I like to put (my pitches) in the strike zone and let them have an opportunity to field it instead of me trying to go for strikeouts all the time,” Hackworth said. “I like to think of myself more as a ground ball pitcher more than a strikeout pitcher.”
The win puts Post 23 into a 10 a.m. Monday first pitch semifinal at VA against Circleville Post 134. The two teams split the four contests this season, with the home team winning all four games. West graduate Anthony Knittel will take the ball for Post 23.
The offensive fireworks for Post 23 started on the first pitch of the game. Leadoff hitter Alex Holcomb laced a double down the left field line off Post 25 starter Ty Leach. Three batters later, Drew Parsley knocked in Holcomb with an RBI single. Post 23 added another run to take the early lead.
“I really felt good about that because I didn't want to fool around with Leach and let him get on a roll and get us into the fifth and sixth innings without scoring the last time he faced us,” Post 23 coach Jack Branon said. “I thought it was really crucial that we scored early against him. That was a big part of our game plan.”
The Aces countered in the bottom of the first with a pair or runs of their own. The rally was spurred on by a Holcomb throwing error that would've ended the inning.
“They shouldn't have scored in the first inning because we should've turned the double play,” Branon said.
Not phased by the error, Post 23 scored two runs each in the third, fifth and sixth innings. During that rally, Post 23 chased Leach from the game.
“We knew when we met to hit at Valley (High School), there was just a different atmosphere,” Branon said. “People worked a little bit harder in the batting cages. We just felt like we were ready to play.”
From the third-to-eighth inning, Hackworth faced the minimum three batters in each inning. The future Shawnee State pitcher caught a break in the fifth when Michael Penwell misinterpreted a sign from the coaching staff and broke for home on a steal. Austin Hall picked Penwell off at third when he tried to retreat back to third.
“If you get that, you better win then,” Branon said.
After a three-run eighth, Post 23 batted around, with Hackworth stepping to the plate twice. In his first appearance, Hackworth battled from a 2-strike count to reach base on a walk.
Hackworth would be the first out of the inning because of Hall's fielder's choice. To avoid the play, Hackworth's slide barely got him to the bag.
“(First base coach Ryan) Fairley told me if it's close, just get out of the way,” Hackworth said. “If it's going to look like a double play, just get out of the way and let them take care of it.”
Post 23 scored five in the ninth, capped off by a Wes Loop three-run home run. Loop and Drew Parsley each collected three hits, five runs batted in and three runs in the game.
“That's four-five (hitters) and that's what we expect those guys to do,” Branon said. “Parsley's the heart of the batting order for a state tournament team (Wheelersburg) and Wes has a year of college behind him as a baseball player.”
As the final batter of the inning, Hackworth struck out on five pitches.
CODY LEIST can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.
Post 23 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 3 5 – 16 17 1
Post 25 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 – 3 8 2
Post 23 – Holcomb 2-4 (2B, BB, SB, 2 R), Shultz 2-5 (3B, BB, RBI, 3 R), Knittel 1-3 (2B, 2 BB, HBP, 3 R), Parsley 3-6 (2B, 5 RBI, 3 R), Loop 3-4 (HR, 2B, BB, HBP, 5 RBI, 3 R), Hood 3-5 (SB, 2 RBI, R), Boyer 1-1, Riehl 1-4 (RBI), Hackworth 0-1 (BB), Hall 1-5 (2B, R).
Post 25 – Warning 1-3 (BB, 2 R), Snyder 2-4, Carter 1-4 (1 R), Starkey 1-3 (2 RBI), Spears 1-4, Penwell 1-3 (2B), Campbell 1-3.
WP – Hackworth (6-2)
LP – Leach (3-2)
Records – Post 23 32-16-1; Post 25 14-12.