Proud Flight To The End of 2011
Written by Steve DeDoes for Toledo Hawks Baseball   
Sunday, 07 August 2011 09:16

Gold Hawks Eliminated from Series, Great Season Comes to a Close

August 6, 2011 - In a quarterfinal game at the NABF World Series, the Toledo "Gold" Hawks saw a highly-successful season come to a swift and disappointing conclusion with a loss to the Chicago Zephyrs at Toledo's Ned Skeldon Stadium.  The loss served as a decisive and somewhat surprising end to an always-rewarding, often-glorious summer of baseball; however, the Hawk players, coaches, organizers, and fans parted ways warmly, fondly, and with positive feelings for one another that will linger long into coming years.  Indeed, the summer of 2011 will undoubtedly help to propel all of the individuals involved to their upcoming goals not only on baseball diamonds, but in all other endeavors for 2011-12.

On this day, it was Zephyr hurler Alci Gonzalez (Point Park Univ.) who stopped the Hawks' 2011 victory train.  With pinpoint control of a devastating two-seam fastball, Gonzalez shut down a vaunted Hawk offensive attack that had soared with authority all year.  Only five hits - and three walks - were allowed to the Hawk hitters, and these were scattered as Gonzalez (who pitched all nine innings for Chicago) got 18 of the 27 outs on ground balls to his sure-handed infielders.

The only Hawks' run scored in the third inning when second sacker Levi Pauli (Defiance/Ottawa Lake, MI) singled to right-center with one out, was joined on the bases when Corey Lehman (Siena Heights/Toledo) followed with a sharp single to left, moved to third on Blake Schmenk's (Owens CC/Perrysburg) right-side groundout, and scored on one of the few errant pitches by Gonzalez.  Other Hawk hits in the game were a first-inning single by the sweet-swinging Drew Kuns (Bowling Green/Oregon), a second-inning hit by catcher Eric Croak (Toledo/Toledo) in the second inning, and a fifth-inning infield hit by speedster Eric Yunker (Ohio Northern/Holland).

Meanwhile, the Zephyrs were cruising due to a first-inning four-spot put up against Hawk starting pitcher Brian Koehl (Heidelberg/Sylvania).  Koehl's fastball was "up in the zone" to start the game, and the Chicagoans' capitalized via a walk, two sharp hits (single/double), a critical Hawk error, and a key two-out single that scored the final two runs in the salvo.  Koehl then wrested control back of the game from the hill, recording seven of the next nine outs by strikeout as he found his groove.  However, two walks led to an RBI hit in the fourth, and Koehl was showing fatigue in the fifth as his pitch count mounted.

Coach Ed Mouch turned to reliever Ricky Volante (Lake Erie/Tappahannock, VA) with two out in the fifth.  He worked through the seventh, where he was touched for two more Zephyr runs; Volante gave way to Kirk Stambaugh (Wayne State/Sylvania) for the eighth.  Meanwhile, the few Hawk highlights in the final innings seemed to taken out of the air by Zephyr left fielder Charles Aldridge (Grambling State), who made two outstanding catches on Hawk drives.

Gold Hawk fans, who had become used to seeing the team always "finding ways to win", recognized that on this day, the opponent gained the upper talon in the manner that the Hawks usually do.  However, they witnessed once again a team that always pulled together and supported one another, and the Toledo Gold Hawks went down with pride, passion, and confidence.

This fine team could look back upon a 39-9 overall record which saw them claim both of their league championships as well as the champion's title from their bracket in this NABF World Series.  Every player on the Hawks could truly say that they achieved special individual moments while making important and critical contributions to team success.

Gold Hawk players - from the "core" of Siena Heights University veterans to the young sophomores-to-be; from the Division I stars to the small-school standouts; from those transitioning into careers off-the-field to those who continue with their baseball dreams - all hugged one another with emotion on the field before parting ways.  They will surely follow one another closely in next year's college seasons and in years to come, and a new core will reunite for 2012 to "do it all again."

They will likely do so under the superb leadership, guidance, and coordination of Hawk general manager Steve Timofeev.  Hopefully, 2012 Gold Hawk players will find veteran Toledo baseball coaches Ed Mouch and Craig Meinzer again at the helm, providing their incredible commitment and their experienced insight.

Thanks to all - parents (Cindy Meinzer gets a "shout-out" for her special efforts), extended families, fans, and supporters.  The two-month stretch of 2011 Toledo Hawks Collegiate Baseball will always provide warm memories.

For me, I will remember with fondness each and every player on the 2011 Toledo Gold Hawks.  I enjoyed their play, enjoyed writing about them, and enjoyed getting acquainted with those with whom I was able to converse.  They are all - to a man - not only fine baseball players, but young men who project a sense of purpose about themselves while clearly understanding that their teammates and supporters are an important part of their directions.  The Gold Hawks' unique combination of focus and frivolity, the clear ability to always play with extreme confidence yet always "max out" in the fun they had with one another, is perhaps the ultimate achievement of the 2011 squad.

May they all realize their promising futures.  S.D.
 
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