Freeport’s Hanz shines in 5-inning win vs. Deer Lakes

Monday, April 3, 2023 | 9:50 PM

Whether Freeport’s Michael Hanz will keep making a jump or eventually flame out is a common question for potential phenom baseball pitchers.

After all, Hanz is one of those rare young fellows whose fastball touches the upper-80s and who is capable of consistently throwing the rest of his arsenal for strikes.

“He has really good command of his fastball and his off-speed stuff, and when you can do that, you’re going to be successful,” Freeport coach Ed Carr said.

Just a sophomore who returned from an elbow injury that kept him out for most of his freshman year last season, the dazzling Freeport lefty with a combined no-hitter already in his pocket this year put on another head-nodding show Monday at Freeport, limiting Deer Lakes to one hit in the Yellowjackets’ five-inning, 10-0 victory.

Hanz struck out eight and walked one. He also hit a pair of batters.

“It’s a team game, so I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the whole team,” Hanz said. “Our offense was very good, and the defense didn’t make a single error. Credit to the whole team.”

The one hit Hanz surrendered was a leadoff double to Noah Shurina to start the third inning. But Hanz struck out the side.

“He had a good fastball, and he was mixing his breaking ball well,” Deer Lakes coach Josh Tysk said. “He kept us off-balance. We hit the ball hard a couple of times, but we didn’t take advantage of some spots. We swung-and-missed a lot today. A lot. Give him credit. He did a good job.”

Zach Clark tripled home Tyler Asti in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game on a 10-run rule for Freeport after Asti reached on a one-out double.

Clark, who also hit a pair of doubles, was 3 for 4 with three RBIs for Freeport (5-1, 3-0 Section 3-3A), which travels to Deer Lakes on Tuesday for a rematch with the Lancers (2-4, 1-2).

The Yellowjackets jumped on Deer Lakes starter Anthony Smith for two runs in the first, one in the second and two more during a six-run third before he was relieved by Joey Scanga, who was touched for the final four runs of the rally as Freeport sent 10 batters to the plate.

Deer Lakes pitchers combined for seven walks and a hit batsman.

“You can’t walk guys to start the inning and then face the meat of the order and not be asking for trouble,” Tysk said. “Bad starts happen, so tomorrow is a new day. We have to come back and get a good start from our guys.”

Smith walked Freeport’s Brady Stivenson and Asti to lead off the first inning, and both scored to give the Yellowjackets their early 2-0 lead.

Malik Febinger walked to lead off the second but was caught stealing. But two batters later, Asti walked and scored on Clark’s first double to make it 3-0.

Freeport combined four hits, including Clark’s second double and a triple by Jackson Smetak, with three walks against Smith and Scanga in the third to add six runs and take a 9-0 lead.

The Yellowjackets ended the game with one out in the fifth on Clark’s RBI triple against Colton Sutter.

Smetak added two RBIs for Freeport.

“We have a lot of guys who had to play as freshmen and sophomores, and they took their lumps for a while,” Carr said. “But now, we have a lot of 2- and 3-year starters. They’re confident. We feel like we have a nice 1-through-9 lineup.”

Hanz in a game last season against Indiana injured his UCL — the elbow ligament that sometimes requires Tommy John Surgery — and he was shut down for the rest of Freeport’s schedule. He said he’s back to 100% after an intense rehab stint.

“He worked really hard, and it shows,” Carr said.

Hanz combined with Clark on March 21 to hurl an 8-0 no-hitter against Apollo-Ridge, with Hanz striking out 10 Vikings in five innings.

“I’m just thinking about throwing strikes and if they hit it, my defense will take care of it,” Hanz said. “I’m just thinking, ‘Go out there and pitch my game,’ like I’ve been coached to do in all of the practices leading up to this. It’s a thrill coming out here. It just keeps getting better.”

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