Mia Hernandez (FR/Hanford, Calif.)’s objective was not to try and hit the ball over the fence despite a howling south wind at her back.
“I’m not trying to hit home runs,” Hernandez said following Kansas Wesleyan’s 16-0 and 14-5 Kansas Conference victories over Southwestern on Tuesday at Bill Burke Park. “I just wanted to keep (the ball) on the ground, make sure I didn’t get any pop flies or get outs – just get my team runs.”
Her strategy failed, though, and her teammates and coaches couldn’t have been happier. Hernandez belted three home runs – the third a walk-off three-run shot in the bottom of the fifth inning of the second game that gave KWU its second run-rule victory of the day, all coming after being named KCAC Player of the Week on Monday by the conference.
It was her team-high eighth homer of the season and gives her a team-best 26 runs batted in. She was 6 for 7 at the plate with six runs scored and five RBI on the day.
The Coyotes have won five in a row, are 17-16 overall and are fourth in the KCAC at 11-5 after the sweep. They’re one game behind McPherson and two games behind No. 22-ranked Ottawa.
“Right now, we’re family, we’re playing like family,” said Hernandez, who plays catcher and first base along with designated hitter. “We’re playing for each other and doing it for each other and the seniors.”
KWU has thrived under interim coach Brian Guyett, who took over in February.
“It’s what I promised them from the get-go, that I would prepare them to go and win ball games,” Guyett said. “Granted we’ve got some hitters who can definitely hit it over the fence but there’s a lot of things we’re doing differently than when I started. And that’s hitting balls to the right side of the infield – manufacturing runs has been my new saying of the day at practice.
“You don’t need to hit home runs, you can still score runs by simply playing the game within in the game, basically. Obviously, you still have to perform it which they’re doing as well. They’re doing fantastic.”
The Coyotes effectively ended the first game in the first inning, scoring nine on seven hits and were helped by five Southwestern errors.
With one out Jocelyn Alcala (SO/Fullerton, Calif.) singled, Hernandez walked and Sam Herrera scored them with a two-run triple. Brianna McGinnis (SR/Tucson, Ariz.) walked and Emma Schumacher (FR/Winfield, Kan.)’s single scored Herrera. Carmen Angulo (SR/Long Beach, Calif.) singled in McGinnis and Schumacher scored on a Southwestern error.
Vivian Millan (SO/Grand Prairie, Texas)’s single scored Angulo and Millan went to third on another error. Lauren Blue (SR/Arlington, Texas)’s singe drove in Millan to make it 7-0. Paige Anderson (JR/Lakeville, Minn.) singled and Alcala reached on a fielder’s choice that saw Blue and Anderson score on the fifth Moundbuilder error of the inning.
The Coyotes tacked on four more runs in the second inning. McGinnis led off with a single and one out later scored on Angulo’s single. Millan singled and Angulo and Millan scored on Blue’s two-run triple. Blue then scored on Anderson’s sacrifice fly.
Hernandez’s first home run of the day leading off the third inning made it 14-0 and McGinnis later doubled with one out and scored on a Millan single. KWU’s final run came in the fourth inning when Hernandez singled and scored on a bases loaded walk to pinch hitter Brylee Potter (FR/Strong City, Kan.).
Millan had three hits and Hernandez, McGinnis, Angulo and Blue two each.
Angulo (12-4) was the winning pitcher allowing six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
Southwestern bolted to a 4-0 lead after the first two innings before the Coyotes came to life with another nine-run inning, this one in the fourth.
It started with back-to-back home runs by Alcala and Hernandez. Herrera then doubled, McGinnis singled and Soule’s single with two outs scored Herrera and McGinnis. Blue doubled in Soule, Anderson reached on an error and Blue and Anderson both scored on another error.
KWU ended it in the fifth with five more runs. Destiny Hackney (FR/Thornton, Colo.) led off with a double and scored on an error on Kyndyll Garrison (SO/Fresno, Calif.)’s single. Blue singled to right with two outs and scored on Anderson’s single making it 11-5. Alcala then walked and Hernandez ended it with a three-run homer to left center.
Hernandez was 4 for 4 in the game hitting while Alcala, Herrera, McGinnis and Blue each had two hits.
“Mia is someone who can hit to all parts of the field,” Guyett said. “She’s not just a dead pull home run hitter and it shows because she hits for average as well (.430).”
Guyett said his team is enjoying a hot streak at the plate that appears to be contagious.
“I hope that we can have this virus for a long time,” he said with a laugh.
Jewell Henry (SO/Kingston, Okla.) (3-4) was the winning pitcher allowing five runs on seven hits, three strikeouts and two walks.
Next up is a conference doubleheader against Bethel starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Salina South High School.