MILTON — By the time final pitch was thrown Thursday evening, Mill Creek's baseball team had seemingly forgotten all about the walk-off loss it suffered the previous night.
The Hawks returned to Milton for Game 3 of their second-round Class AAAAAAA playoff series with the Eagles, and in dominant fashion secured their spot in the state quarterfinals with a five-inning, 11-0 victory.
Kyle Sterwerf pitched a complete-game one-hitter while Tim Simay and Alek Boychuk recorded two hits apiece to fuel Mill Creek (23-13) in the mercy rule-shortened rubber match. The Hawks successfully bounced back from their 8-7 Game 1 loss Wednesday that saw Milton (24-10) take the series opener on a Logan Jones walk-off double, but they countered with a 5-1 victory in Game 2 later in the day.
They saved the best for last on Thursday.
"It's 15 years this year for this program and a lot of bricks have been laid," Mill Creek head coach Doug Jones said. "They respect that. There's a culture of not giving up and not quitting, and playing the game right."
The Hawks return to the quarterfinals for a third consecutive season, where they will face Hillgrove.
Mill Creek plated at least one run in each inning, using a patient batting to frustrate the Eagles' pitchers. All of the Hawks' hits were singles and they drew seven walks.
The meticulous approach at the plate forced Milton to burn through five different pitchers after Mill Creek chased Eagles starter Tyler McLoughlin through 2 2/3 innings.
"We do have some kids that have a little thump, but most of our kids are just hitters and have to have good approaches," Jones said. "They did, and they bought in. We tried our best not to swing at bad pitches and put ourselves in a bad way."
The massive run support made for a smooth ride to the fifth inning for Sterwerf. The Hawks' lefty struck out three and walked one.
His lone hit was a single to Curt McDonell in the second inning, but he stranded the runner by striking out Logan Jones in the next at-bat.
"He's done that all year -- every time we've had a big game, whether it be a region series or last week in the first round," Doug Jones said. "We felt confident coming in here today that he was going to throw a good ballgame, and he delivered."
The run support poured in early and often. Boychuk scored Simay in the first inning for the game's first run, then Brendan York made it 2-0 in the second with a bases-loaded walk. Blaze McCauley and Jacob Allen followed up with RBI singles in the third. Carson Renz also scored from third on a passed ball.
Mill Creek tacked on two more runs in the fourth on bases-loaded scenarios. James Schmidt used a sacrifice groundout to bring home Simay, then Boychuk scored from third on a groundball error by Milton shortstop Kristian Campbell.
The Eagles' pitching struggles peaked in the fifth. They gave up an RBI single to Boychuk, then beaned back-to-back hitters to send another Hawks run home. McCauley's bases-loaded walk activated the five-inning mercy rule at 10-0, then Garner McKeon popped up to score Schmidt from third for the final run of the game.