Junior Adam Hallberg’s first start of the season was solid, if not spectacular, as defensive miscues led to a trio of unearned runs in a 4-2 defeat at Zimmerman.
Getting another crack at the Thunder in the Flyers’ home opener, April 25, Hallberg bordered on sensational, throwing a one-hit shutout while fanning 10 as Little Falls squeezed out a 1-0 victory.
“The biggest change I saw in Adam in that game was his command of the strike zone,” Little Falls head coach Chad Kaddatz said. “He has always had good velocity and a sharp curveball, but that game his control was probably the best I have ever seen from him. When he missed on his pitches, he didn’t miss by much. There were very few pitches that were off the plate or missed by a lot.
“He struck out 10 batters in a complete game and only threw 91 pitches,” he said. “Usually if you get a complete game this early in the year, it is a result of balls being put in play early in the count, but when you strike hitters out it can really make your pitch count add up. We didn’t want to go above 90 pitches, and he was able to stay very close to that with a great stat line.”
Little Falls had some difficulty of its own getting on the board, putting runners in scoring position in the second and third innings, but each time with two outs as they came up empty.
Then, junior Thomas Bell reached with a one-out single in the fifth, followed up by an RBI double by senior Brett Strack to plate the game’s lone run.
Taking the mound with a 1-0 lead entering the sixth inning, Hallberg finally surrendered a hit with one out.
With the possibility of a no-hitter taken away, Hallberg worked around his only walk of the contest two batters later with a meek pop up to strand two base runners, then turned in a perfect seventh to seal the win, and a reversal of fortunes from his first outing.
“Adam had a decent start against them the first time we played, but our defense really let us down,” Kaddatz said. “They were able to put a couple of balls in play that game, and we had some bad luck and poor fielding that led to a couple of runs scoring.
“Obviously, it was not the way he wanted to start, but we have seen him pitch enough during VFW the last few summers to know what he is capable of, so we did not worry at all about the result,” he said. “With that in mind, it was good to get ‘back on that horse’ and make sure that one outing didn’t turn into a trend.”
A big reason for that was the defense.
After committing three errors in the first inning the first time around against Zimmerman 10 days earlier, the Flyers flashed some impressive leather to keep Hallberg’s no-hitter intact deep into the contest.
“The unique thing about baseball is that the first time we played them they were able to put together some hits and errors without ever hitting a ball hard,” Kaddatz said. “The second game Adam was able to hold them to a one-hitter, but they hit a couple of ropes, but right at defenders. There was a point late in the game when I was sure we would get a no-hitter, as we had two great defensive plays (Michael Fregin with a diving stop and Thomas Bell gathering in a deflected ball and getting the runner at first), but it just wasn’t in the cards.”
Sophomore leadoff hitter Thomas Miller also had two hits in the game and senior No. 2 hitter Alec Zack had the other.
Combined with the production of Bell and Strack in the No. 8 and No. 9 slots, the Flyers are utilizing a more balanced offensive approach than the star-studded lineups of year’s past in the early stages of the season.
“We had such a talent-rich senior class last year, but the downside is that sometimes players have a tendency to sit back and wait for one of your stars to take over and make the big play,” Kaddatz said. “This year’s team really has a strong family vibe to it – any game you can expect any of the players to be the hero for us, and every player, 1-16 is very tight. They are a great group to be around.”
Follow area sports action on Twitter @MCRecordSports