The Hillsboro baseball team overcame a host of last-minute lineup changes to sweep Little River 3-2 and 22-7 in its season opener Thursday at Little River.
The Trojans won the first game behind a gutty five-inning, three-hit pitching performance by Jordan Faul.
Faul had been slated for relief duty in Game 1, but was the surprise starter after coach Doug Dick learned earlier in the day that his intended starter, freshman Austin Cross, would be lost for the season because of back issues.
“Basically, Jordan found out on the bus ride up that he was going to be the starting pitcher,” Dick said.
The Trojans gave Faul some run support in their first at-bat. After Faul reached on an error, Lucas Sinclair singled and Nathan Unruh knocked a two-out single to score both base runners.
Little River scored its first run in the bottom of the fourth without a base hit, but Hillsboro responded with a run after Faul singled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Sinclair.
The Redskins added a run in the bottom of the fifth, but Faul got out of a base-loaded jam without further damage.
For the last two innings, Sinclair moved from catcher to pitcher. He walked three batters, but gave up only one hit while striking out three hitters to earn the save.
Dick praised both pitching performances.
“Jordan’s just a gamer,” Dick said. “He’s a heady kid and he gives you everything he’s got. I didn’t know how he’d do as a starter. Last year he never threw a pitch in a varsity game, but I knew he had the capability.
“Lucas threw well on the mound, too, not allowing a run in those last two innings.”
Game 2 took on a different tone as Little River roughed up Trojan ace Kale Arnold for five runs in the first inning.
But the Trojans responded with an eight-run second inning to take the lead for good.
“(Little River) had a lot of momentum after the bottom of the first and you’re thinking, how are we going to respond to this?” Dick said. “Then we come up in the top of the second and score eight. That just totally deflated them. They were done.”
Hillsboro went down in order in the third inning, but exploded for a 14-run fourth to put the game out of reach.
After his shaky start, Arnold nailed down the win with a four-inning complete game in which he recorded five strikeouts, five walks, five hits and five earned runs.
For the day, Unruh paced the Trojans offensively with four hits, three runs scored and four batted in. Arnold added three RBIs in Game 2. Freshman Dylan Nelson made his first start as a Trojan in Game 2 and went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two driven in.
Dick was pleased with the wins against the Redskins, a state qualifier last season, especially given his make-do lineup.
Cross had been counted on to contribute at three other positions when he wasn’t pitching.
With him out, third baseman Unruh played his first high school game at shortstop, with first-baseman Arnold doing the same at third. First-year senior Josh Davidson stepped in at first base, and when Sinclair moved to the mound to pitch, sophomore Jakob Hanschu came in from the outfield as a varsity catcher for the first time in his career.
“We had to have kids grow up and mature very quickly,” Dick said. “I saw some good things out of the guys. I told them before the game that we’re all going to have to elevate our game a little bit, including us coaches.”
The loss of Cross, combined with the loss of returning starter Cody Delk to shoulder surgery prior to the season, leaves the Trojans with a roster of 12 active players.
Coming—The Trojans were scheduled to play at home Tuesday against Nickerson. Their next schedule games will be next Tuesday with Smoky Valley coming to Memorial Field. The starting time will be 4:30 p.m.