Fly balls go to die in glove of QU’s ‘Golden Retriever’ Boynton

QU center fielder Brock Boynton takes an at bat during a recent Hawks game.
QU center fielder Brock Boynton takes an at bat during a recent Hawks game.(QU photo/ Olivia Kindt)
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:21 AM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - If you asked the Quincy University pitching staff, they would agree that 72% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and the rest is covered by center fielder Brock Boynton.

“We call him the Golden Retriever,” said QU Coach Matt Schissel, whose team will host Indianapolis Friday and Saturday in the NCAA Div. II Super Regional at QU Stadium with a trip to the national tournament on the line.

“He does a great job communicating in the outfield and he can track down anything out there.”

Boynton’s defense and timely hitting from the No. 9 hole have played a key part for the Hawks, who are 47-9 with an 18-game winning streak and victories in 28 of their last 29 games.

“QU Stadium is unique. It takes a lot of stones to play with that stone wall out in left and left center,” said Boynton, who has made just four errors in 275 chances in his three years as the Hawks centerfielder.

“I take pride in my defense. I want everything to just be a graveyard in center field.”

In fact, Schissel says the only four errors Boynton has made in his career have come on throws.

“If it’s hit in the air, Brock is gonna catch it,” said Schissel, whose team is ranked sixth in the NCBWA poll and second by

Boynton’s stability in center field had been crucial because of injuries and other reasons he has been flanked in left field and right field by about eight or nine different players used in about 10 different combinations.

For the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and the NCAA Div. II Midwest Regional last weekend, the Hawks seemed to have settled on freshman Ben Dahlof in left field and former shortstop senior Gino D’Alessio as the right fielder.

“Ben made some great plays up against that stone wall in left field during the regional,” Boynton said. “It’s really great to watch him grow.”

D’Alessio played most of the season at shortstop but was moved to right field in order to keep his bat in the lineup after an injury moved him off the infield.

He had trouble with two balls hit off the wall in regional but Boynton said part of the Hawks preparation this week will be learning how to play those balls off the wall.

“That short porch in right field is really tough to play if you’ve never done it,” Boynton said. “If the ball is hit over your head it’s probably going out or off the wall.”

Not only does Boynton take runs away with his glove, he also produces runs with his bat as the ninth-place hitter.

For the season, Boynton is batting .293 in 54 games with eight home runs, 43 RBI with 46 runs scored. During the Midwest Regional, Boynton was 3-for-11 with four runs scored and one RBI.

Boynton has contributed to QU’s record-setting offensive onslaught. The team has hit a school record 130 home runs, leaving them one short of the single season NCAA D-II record set by West Georgia in 1998. The Hawks have scored 524 runs with .333 team batting average and a .621 team slugging percentage. The Hawks have scored in double figures in 24 of 56 games.

“My approach is to get on base,” said Boynton, who has a career .304 batting average. “If I can get on base, I can score with guys hitting behind me.”

“We call ourselves a union from 1 to 9. Just do your job.”

By batting ninth, Boynton offers the Hawks a second “lead off” hitter when the lineup turns over.

“During the winter, we talked with Brock about hitting ninth,” Schissel explained. “It wasn’t a punitive move. We thought it would give us a real advantage with our lineup and it has.”

“I just know at some point I’ll lead off an inning and I want to be that spark plug,” said Boynton, who graduated from Penn High School in Mishakawa, Ind. “Get on base and score a run.”

Boynton delivered one of the biggest hits of the season when the top-seeded Hawks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat eighth-seeded Missouri S&T 9-8 in the first game of the GLVC Tournament.

Boynton’s hit off the third baseman’s glove scored the tying a run and an eventual bases-loaded walk forced in the winning run, sparing the Hawks a place in the loser’s bracket.

“You saw what happened to (University of Illinois) Springfield when you lose that first game " Boynton said. “That makes a huge difference.”

Top-seeded QU didn’t play seventh-seeded Indianapolis during the GLVC regular season but beat the Greyhounds 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament after bolting to a 6-0 lead.

Schissel said All-GLVC grad senior right-hander Spencer Walker and junior left-hander Griffin Kirn will start the first two games of the best-of-three series with grad senior right-hander Jay Hammel available for a possible third game.

“Indy is a scrappy team and they’ll battle you and hang around,” said Boynton, who graduated with a degree in sports management and will play for the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the Northwoods League when QU’s season is over.

“We are playing against ourselves. We know if we all do our jobs we are unstoppable. When we fell behind 6-0 in the first game of the regional, there was no panic.

“Coach preaches ‘win the inning.’ Go out and chip away. And that’s what we did,” Boynton said, after the Hawks rallied from a 6-0 second inning deficit to beat Wayne State (Mich.) 18-8 in the regional opener.

After beating Northwood (Mich.) 6-3 and 9-0 to clinch the regional title, the Hawks held a rather subdued celebration on the field last Saturday.

“There was no big dog pile or anything like that,” Boynton said of the veteran team. “We have one ultimate goal and that is to reach the national tournament in Cary (N.C.).”

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