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Baseball Spartans win sixth in a row

Solon sweeps Independence and Center Point-Urbana
Solon’s Jarrett Stallman gets a good break on the ball while playing second base during the Spartans’ 13-1 win over Independence Wednesday, June 11. Solon won both games of the doubleheader. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Make it six in a row for the Solon varsity baseball team.
The Spartans swept home doubleheaders against Independence and Center Point-Urbana last week to move above .500 for the season.
Solon started the year 0-3 with losses to Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Maquoketa, but since then the team has been steadily improving, offensively and defensively.
“We lost a couple of close games the first week of the season that we could have just as easily won,” head coach Keith McSweeney said. “But they’ve served as great learning experiences for our team. With baseball, I’m a firm believer that the growth experience includes losing occasionally as it provides teachable moments and helps heighten team focus.”
The Spartans split doubleheaders with Mount Vernon and Marion before taking a pair on the road from conference foe Western Dubuque last Monday.
Solon then exploded for 31 runs in a twinbill against Independence Wednesday, June 11, taking both games, 13-1 (in five innings) and 18-0 (in four innings).
The Spartans racked up 12 walks in the opening game, with Nathan Hawkins collecting three of them. Hawkins was 1-1 at the plate, but scored four times. Solon had 10 hits, scoring multiple runs in each of the first four innings. Sophomore Patrick Maston was credited with four RBI, while Luke Ira was 2-3 with a pair of doubles.
Ira, an incoming freshman, scattered three hits and allowed a single run while striking out four Independence batters.
“Our team this year is led by a tremendous group of seniors and we are leaning on them heavily, both on the field, and in the dugout for leadership,” McSweeney said.  
Seniors Mitch Silberstein and Hawkins have filled the top of the pitching rotation for Solon.
“But some young arms have emerged too, specifically, Dillion Drake, as he has taken the next step and has really pitched well in his first couple of extended appearances,” McSweeney said. “And junior Eric Holforf has been a pleasant surprise as he’s pitched well against some very good hitting lineups thus far.”
The emergence of Ira, and junior Brandon Kramer’s unselfishness in moving into more of a utility role, has really stabilized the Solon defense, McSweeney added.  
The offense continued against Independence in game two, with the Spartans cranking out 18 runs in the first three innings on 14 hits. Ira had two more doubles, while Lucas Kane had two triples and three RBI.
Hawkins picked up the win on the mound, striking out four without allowing a single hit. Nick Hofsommer pitched one inning of relief.
Maston and Silberstein combined to shut out Center Point-Urbana (CP-U) Friday, June 13, in an 8-0 Solon win.
The Spartans scored six runs in the first inning and added two more insurance runs in the sixth. Solon had only six hits in the game, but four of them were doubles by Ira, Hawkins, Lucas Kane and Drake.
“One strength of our team has been our catching as Lucas Kane has improved significantly in his senior year, both in his defense and as someone capable of coming through with the big hit in our lineup,” McSweeney said. “And at shortstop, Elijah Kane has followed up his All-Conference performance from last season with a strong start to his senior year and really looks like one of the best players in the WaMaC right now.”
Elijah Kane scored three times in the second game against CP-U, an 11-5 win. Hawkins and Logan Linderbaum had three RBI each. The Spartans jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead, and scored twice in the second and once in the third, tacking on five more runs in the fifth and sixth.
Drake went the distance on the mound, giving up five runs (three earned) on nine hits while striking out seven.
“At the end of the day, we measure our success based on our ability to pitch to contact, make the routine play, and handle the bat,” McSweeney said. “We’ve continued to improve in all three areas and the result has been winning eight of our last 10 games.”