In the opener, Nickerson reached Hillsboro senior Travis Riesen for eight runs in the first inning on three hits, four walks and a hit batter.
Hillsboro came back in the bottom of the inning with two runs on four hits, including consecutive doubles by Riesen, Alex Nuss and Jacob Fish. But Nickerson pushed across 10 more runs in the second inning for an 18-2 lead.
With the score still 18-2 after three innings, the game was officially credited to the Panthers as a win because of the 15-run rule. But the coaches agreed to play five innings for additional game experience.
The Trojans allowed only one more run the rest of the way while scoring six themselves. Hamm’s three-run home run in the fifth inning accounted for half of those runs.
The Trojans closed the gap to 11 runs after five innings, but the credit for that goes as much to Nickerson veteran coach Rich Krol as to the no-quit attitude of Oelke’s squad.
“I give credit to Coach Krol,” Oelke said. “After three innings, he stopped bunting, stealing and the hit-and-run type stuff, and just let his guys play, and he subbed in as best he could.
“It could have been a whole lot worse, and his kids were really classy about it,” Oelke said. “Sometimes you get into game situations like that and kids get to mocking other players. His kids never did. They were very respectful. That made it a little bit easier.”
Riesen (0-1) absorbed a beating, giving up 16 runs—but only three earned—in two innings of work. He allowed six hits, seven walks and four hit batters while striking out two.
“We were pretty inexperienced behind the plate, so (Riesen) never got into a comfortable flow or rhythm,” Oelke said. “So he struggled a little bit on the mound.”
The defense behind Riesen contributed five errors.
Game 2 was close through the first two innings, with Hillsboro trailing 4-3 behind the six-hit pitching of sophomore Gavin Serene. But the Panthers scored five runs in the third and fourth innings before breaking loose with nine in the fifth and final frame.
The highlight for Hillsboro was a five-run fifth inning on three hits, a walk and two Nickerson errors.
Serene (0-1) lasted three innings and was charged with 12 runs, nine of them earned. The sophomore gave up nine hits, walked three, struck out one and hit a batter.
Hillsboro again committed five errors.
“We missed some ground balls we could have made a play on—or if we had our regular guys, would have made play on—so it just kind of lengthened things,” Oelke said. “But the guys didn’t quit on me. They went full speed all night, and that’s all I could have asked for.”
For the day, Oelke’s seniors in the 2, 3 and 4 spots in the order—Hamm, Riesen and Nuss—combined for 12 hits and 10 runs batted in with 19 at-bats.
Hamm was 5-for-7 with a home run, triple, double and three runs batted in, Riesen 3-for-7 with a triple and three RBI, and Nuss 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI.
“We actually hit the ball pretty well, especially No. 1 through 5 in the lineup—both games, actually,” Oelke said.
He praised the effort of several underclassmen who took advantage of their opportunity to log some varsity action.
“(Freshman) Fish hit the ball pretty well in Game 1 and made contact most of Game 2, but we had some young kids who I thought did a lot of good things,” he said.
“(Sophomore) Robby McClelland played right field for us and covered a lot of territory,” Oelke said. “I bet he had six put-outs between the two games—a couple of them he had to run a long way to make the catch. He did really a nice job.
“All of those young kids came in and did the best job they could.”
Coming—Hillsboro’s doubleheader against Marion on Thursday, April 5, was postponed because of snow until Monday, April 30.
Hillsboro (0-2) was scheduled to play at Halstead on Tuesday and then will host a doubleheader with Smoky Valley on Friday starting at 4:30 p.m. at Memorial Field.
The doubleheader with Wichita Collegiate that was postponed March 30 because of rain had not been rescheduled by press time.