Stewarts Creek's baseball team was eliminated from the TSSAA state tournament Friday afternoon with an 8-4 loss to the Powell Panthers.
However, the season-ending loss quickly became old news for the Red Hawks as head coach Mike Bartlett announced his retirement immediately following the game.
“It was time,” was all the emotional Bartlett had to say at the time.
Bartlett is the only coach the program has had in its’ eight-year history and has taken the team to the state tourney four out of the eight season, including a state-runner up finish.
As much as winning has quickly become a tradition for the Stewarts Creek program, the name Vondohlen has become synonymous with the team, having at least one member of the family in each of the eight seasons.
“I feel like it’s been a great run (his career at Stewarts Creek),” Brett Vondohlen said. “I feel like we did a great job leading up to the end, and standing up to our name. I think Ty (Vondohlen) will take it over and do the same next year.”
The game against Powell started Wednesday evening but was suspended due to weather, at which point the Red Hawks were coming to bat in the third with a 2-0 lead they had amassed on the strength of a lead-off homer by Keenan Saiyasak and a second-inning RBI double by Robert Matano.
When the game resumed Friday, the team seemingly picked up where it left off, with solid pitching from Caleb Peterson and adding a run in the fourth. Even after Powell plated two in the fifth, the Red Hawks added another as Gage Hoover doubled and then eventually scored on an error.
The Red Hawks headed to the seventh on cruise control, but suddenly hit a wall as the team began making uncharacteristic errors, and the relief pitchers started walking batters.
The Panthers scored two in the seventh and four in the eighth on just three hits, but in the same span Stewarts Creek had four walks, a hit batsman and committed three run-scoring errors.
“I would call the season a success,” Brett Vondohlen said. “We just didn’t get the little things done today. The errors gave the game away, and the walks made extra runners.
“The stress from the weather and losing one of our best players (Cooper Newsom to injury) had an effect on the team. I wouldn’t say it killed us because we come to play every day, but it did have an effect on how we performed.”