Nathan Unruh’s bases-loaded, two-out triple in the bottom of the third generated just enough offense to lift Hillsboro to a 3-2 win and a doubleheader split with Nickerson April 2 at Memorial Field.
Hillsboro (3-1) lost the first game, 3-1.
In the nightcap, the Trojans trailed the Panthers 1-0 going into the bottom of the third in a pitching duel between aces Kale Arnold for Hillsboro and Ryan O’Toole for Nickerson.
After Josh Davidson struck out to lead off the inning, Micah Allen drew a walk and Jordan Faul singled. After Lucas Sinclair fouled out, Arnold walked on a 3-2 pitch to fill the bases. Unruh hit the next pitch into right-center for a 3-1 lead.
Nickerson scored a run in the seventh on a pair of walks and a throwing error in the outfield. But Arnold struck out Tyler Owen to end the threat.
Arnold (2-0) struggled with his control, walking seven Panthers. But the senior struck out nine batters and scattered five hits over seven innings for the complete-game victory.
The Trojans managed only four hits in the contest.
In the opener, Faul threw another strong game for Hillsboro. The Panthers touched him for a run in the first inning on a pair of base hits.
Hillsboro tied the game in the bottom of the first when Allen led off with a walk and eventually scored on a pair of Nickerson errors.
Nickerson secured the final two runs of the game in the fourth inning, fueled by a lead-off single and a couple of wild pitches.
Faul (1-1) went the distance, allowing three earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts and four walks. At the plate, Faul and Arnold each stroked two of the team’s five hits.
Coach Doug Dick said he’s pleased with the pitching he’s seen from Faul, Arnold and Sinclair so far this season, except for occasional control issues.
“We’re getting our pitch count way higher than I want early in the game,” he said. “We were fortunate that both pitchers pitched some short innings to keep the pitch count to where it was manageable.”
Dick said the key area for improvement is hitting, particularly the lower half of the lineup. Players hitting in the No. 5 through No. 9 spots combined for one hit in 22 official at-bats against Nickerson.
“We need to get better at the plate overall, throughout our lineup,” he said. “Somebody at the end has to be able to at least put the bat on the ball.
“I’ve got some guys hitting in the middle who need to get more consistent,” he added. “Other than Unruh’s hit, we didn’t do much offensively against O’Toole. He’s a good pitcher.”
Dick said he would have liked to sweep Nickerson, but he’s pleased with a 3-1 start to the season.
“Nickerson’s a good team,” he said. “They have eight starters back (from a state-qualifying team in 2012).”
Coming—The Trojans were scheduled to host Smoky Valley Tuesday at Memorial Field. They travel to Kingman Friday