March 30, 2010 9:28:00 AM
Throwing a curveball for a strike was becoming a nuisance for Tyji Hawkins.
Finding a groove at the plate was equally as difficult for Josh Tentoni.
The Columbus High School seniors might have solved their problems on Friday night, and, in the process, set the Falcons up to accomplish some big things this season.
Hawkins pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, while Tentoni smacked a two-run home run to lead Columbus past Starkville 5-4 in a Class 6A, Division 2, District 4 game.
For their accomplishments, Hawkins and Tentoni are The Commercial Dispatch co-Prep Players of the Week.
"We really needed that game," Hawkins said. "It gave me a lot of confidence to know I could throw strikes and hit my spots and dominate."
Hawkins had a no-hitter through five innings en route to a 10-strikeout, 115-pitch outing. He said he didn''t realize he had a no-hitter working until he read it in the paper Sunday.
"I felt real good Friday," Hawkins said. "My arm felt real good. I hit my spots, my curveball finally worked, and I just had fun."
Hawkins considers himself a dominating pitcher. He said his ability to control his curveball and to locate all of his pitches helped everything come together at the right time.
"Now we''re starting to look like a baseball team," said Hawkins, after the Falcons avenged a loss to the Yellow Jackets earlier in the week. "We''re cheering each other on. (Earlier in the season) we weren''t paying attention to the game. We would quit and fold the tent. Now if we''re down a couple of runs we know how to come back from it."
Columbus High coach Jeffrey Cook said Hawkins, a senior right-hander, started out well and maintained his velocity and control.
"He wasn''t afraid to go inside, and against the good hitting teams you have to challenge them inside," Cook said.
Cook said Hawkins walked two runners in in the fifth inning but kept his composure. He said Hawkins has matured a lot this season and needs to continue to take a business-like approach when he takes the field.
"He keeps the team laughing and joking a lot, but there is a time to play and there is a time to have fun," Cook said. "Friday night was huge for him and for us as a team."
As big an outing as Hawkins had on the mound, Tentoni''s home run over the scoreboard was a game-changer. Cook hopes the blast can be a season-changer, too, now that Tentoni has settled down at the plate and is not pressing as much as he did early in the season.
Cook worked with Tentoni and encouraged him to relax when the Falcons went to Orlando, Fla., on a spring break trip. The Falcons went 3-1 on the trip, and Cook saw signs Tentoni was going to break out.
On Friday, the senior catcher had a statement at-bat to show he is ready.
"He had a lot of expectations coming into the season, and he has really improved dramatically defensively," Cook said. "He has put in the time. He is the first one here hitting and the last one to leave. It has paid off. He had a great week. The shot Friday really woke him up. It kind of woke our team up to let us know that we could play with Starkville, the preseason favorite in the district."
Tentoni said he took about 400 cuts prior to the game to help him relax. He said he didn''t think about doing too much and just capitalized on a fastball that got a little too much of the plate.
"It settled me down," Tentoni said. "If I can hit Starkville''s No. 2 guy (Nick Brooks), I can hit almost anybody. There is no doubt they are the team to beat in the district this year."
Tentoni carried the momentum from the hit to Saturday in a victory against Humphreys County and a loss to Greenville-Weston. He said he will do his best not to fall back into a pattern where he is pressing too much, which could affect his swing.
"Next pitch. That''s what our philosophy needs to be," Tentoni said. "That''s what it was Friday. ... It is everybody being positive about everything and being good teammates."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
Dave Miller commented at 3/31/2010 2:56:00 PM:
Two 2-run home runs in 4 games for Tentoni. Not bad at all. Keep it up guys!!
Help commented at 3/31/2010 5:14:00 PM:
It would be nice if the catcher will catch the ball or at least block it up. This has cost us games!
BOOM commented at 4/1/2010 9:26:00 AM:
if it wasnt for tentoni falcons wouldnt have even brought it 2-1 in the 7th
Hmmm commented at 4/2/2010 4:31:00 PM:
Boom said it all.