HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – National Park College baseball players were having fun Sunday afternoon at Hot Springs High School’s new diamond.
The Nighthawks were singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” then giving teammate Tristen Jamison the silent treatment after he hit the longest home run of the day. Seconds later he was mobbed inside the dugout.
The reason for such elation were 10-1 and 10-4 wins over Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa. The Mavericks came to Hot Springs with a 25-12 record, and they were hoping to add to NPC’s recent frustrations on the field. Instead, the Nighthawks swept the four-game series, improving to 18-18 overall and 8-8 in regional play.
“We needed this; Tonkawa was a game ahead of us going into the series,” said NPC coach Rich Thompson. “There was a meeting with the pitchers this week. They were told we’ve got a great offense. We just want to see everyone put it all together.”
Nighthawks have fun sweeping Tonkawa
That’s exactly what happen Saturday and Sunday. Cole Rodriguez pitched a six-inning gem Saturday, allowing two runs and striking out 11. Tristen Jamison earned a save with a solid effort in the seventh. Kenley Anderson hurled a nine-inning masterpiece Saturday in a 2-1 victory. He allowed five hits, walking none and striking out two. Jesus Minjarez hit his 11th home run of the season.
The Nighthawks’ incredible pitching continued Sunday. Robby Caro went the distance, holding the Mavs to two hits, while walking two and striking out six. Mason Sellers, Mathew Herron and Jackson Pope combined their pitching skills to win the nightcap.
“This is absolutely the best series we’ve had all season,” said Thompson. “We pitched better than we have all year. If you limit the runs, you don’t have to score as many either.”
Early homers ignite NPC fireworks
NPC got off to a hot start Sunday with Jamison and Rodriguez both hitting two-run dingers. Panama H-Mendez added a two-run roundtripper in the third to make it 6-1, and Rodriguez smashed his ninth home run of the season in the sixth to make it 10-1. Jesus Minjarez and CJ Price both had three hits in the game for NPC. Rodriguez and Jamison had two hits each.
Thompson felt the Mavs might be feeling a little uncomfortable and pressing after losing the first three games of the series. Hayden Priest and Holden Bartosovsky staked Northern Oklahoma to an early 3-0 lead with home runs.
NPC tied the game in its half of the fourth on Brett Sweatman’s three-run homer to right-center. Jamison followed with his 12th and 13th homers of the season to give the Nighthawks a 9-4 cushion. Jamison is tied with Demias Jimerson for the team lead in home runs. Jimerson had a double and single in the second game, scoring twice and driving in three runs.
Hackney’s injury only setback for NPC
Shortstop Jack Hackney suffered an ankle injury in the third inning of Sunday’s opener.
“Hackney’s ankle doesn’t look great right now,” said Thompson. “He’s a tough kid. Hopefully we can nurse him for a week in the training room, and he’ll be OK. We’re lucky in that we carry a few middle infielders just in case something like this happens.”
Jamison replaced Hackney, and performed brilliantly at his natural position after starting the day at third.
NPC travels to Redlands Community College next week in El Reno, Okla.