Playing was the easy part, according to Holtville baseball coach Torey Baird.
When the Bulldogs took the field Saturday afternoon, the focus wasn’t necessarily on what was going to happen on the diamond as they hosted the Beauregard Hornets. It was just Beauregard’s second outing since a devastating tornado hit its community last weekend, and although there were two games to be played on the diamond, there was a much bigger purpose.
Prior to the game, Baird reached out to Beauregard coach Evan Braun and asked what the Bulldogs could do to help.
“We wanted to do something for the community,” Baird said. “I spoke with him, and he said there had been a lot of people helping them. But I asked him, ‘What can we do for you? What do you need?’ We talked about his catcher (Payton Whatley); the tornado tore this kid’s house to pieces and he lost his grandmother. It was just horrible.”
Baird set out reaching out to different community members; he contacted the principals of the elementary, middle and high schools to see if they could help raise money for Whatley and his family. In the end, the Bulldog community raised $1,900 for Whatley and presented it to his team during Saturday’s doubleheader.
“A lot of it was through the community who showed up at the game, and it was just so cool to see that,” Baird said. “I was expecting to raise a few hundred dollars for him, but when I got the envelope at the end of the game and it was $1,900, it was just unbelievable.”
In addition to raising money for Whatley, the Bulldogs also made their support for Beauregard and the Hornets present throughout their ballfield. They had Beauregard ribbons made for the fans, and Baird said he had stickers made in the Hornet colors of blue and yellow to put on the Bulldog helmets. Holtville will wear those stickers for the rest of the season.
The two teams also came together for a prayer prior to the game.
“We mixed in around the mound,” Baird said. “It wasn’t just our team and their team; it was the group of us together. We prayed for Beauregard. It was more than baseball but at the same time, baseball is the thing that brought us together. That’s what enabled us to do the little we could do to help them.”
In the end, Holtville swept the doubleheader but it was a pair of extremely competitive games. The Bulldogs won the first game, 8-3, before needing extra innings to capture the second game, 6-5.
“Our guys handled it with respect, but the worst thing you can do is not show them the respect that they deserve when the competition gets there,” Baird said. “Beauregard played their hearts out though.”
In the first game, the Bulldogs lit up the scoreboard with 13 hits and eight runs. After the Hornets took a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning, Holtville immediately responded with three runs of its own. Brylan Shaffer led off with a double and Mikey Forney followed with a single. Hunter Martin then took full advantage of the situation by smashing a home run to left field to put the Bulldogs ahead 3-2. Martin finished with four RBIs on three hits, and Forney and Drew Nobles each had three hits as well.
On the mound, Chapelle Washam and Nobles combined for the win. Washam went the first six innings, allowing just four hits while striking out eight. None of the runs Beauregard scored were earned, as the Bulldogs struggled with six errors.
Forney played hero in Game 2. In a tie ballgame in the bottom of the eighth, the Bulldogs got the bases loaded with a Grant Norton single, Braxton Buck reaching on an error and Peyton Coburn getting hit by a pitch. Forney then did the damage by lacing a single to left field, sending Norton home for the win.
Forney contributed three hits and a pair of RBIs in the nightcap. Nobles and Norton each had two hits. Owen Chandlee and Todd Wilson both had strong showings on the mound, as they allowed a combined six hits. Wilson racked up seven strikeouts in four innings.