Starters Justin Axman for the Cardinals and Travis Riesen for the Trojans were locked in a 2-0 contest through three innings after Hoisington scored single runs in the first and second inning.
In the top of the fourth, Hillsboro erupted for three runs with the help of a couple Hoisington errors. Lucas Hamm beat out a ground ball to short for a single, then Alex Nuss reached on an error and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
After Riesen grounded out, Hoisington’s right fielder dropped a fly ball hit by Troy Frick, enabling Hamm to score.
Isaac Leihy then walked to load the bases, Mitchell Koop walked to force in Hillsboro’s second run, and then Frick scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Tyler Ediger.
Hillsboro’s burst set off a see-saw battle over the next several at-bats. Hoisington retook the lead, 4-3, with a couple of hits and a walk in the bottom of the inning.
Hillsboro turned the tables once more with two runs in the top of the fifth, helped this time by three Hoisington errors.
With Hillsboro back on top, 5-4, the home team broke loose in the bottom of inning for six runs. Riesen walked the lead-off hitter, than gave up three consecutive hits, including a two-run double. After a balk brought home a third run, a double by Carl Hickel drove in another one to make the score 8-5.
Coach Phil Oelke then switched his pitching battery, bringing Daniel Jost in for Riesen. But after Jost got the second out of the inning on a line drive, a fielding error and then a double by Cameron Horesky brought in two more runs that gave the Cardinals a 10-5 lead.
Hillsboro managed one more run in the top of the sixth on a single by Aaron Stepanek, who stole second and then scored on single by Jost.
But Hoisington continued its assault in the bottom of the sixth, scoring six more times on four hits and a hit batter.
The game ended when Horesky tripled with two runners on, and then scored when the throw to third sailed wide of the target, enabling him to cross the plate for the 16-6 final.
Oelke said he feared trouble when Riesen was struggling to throw with consistency in the early innings.
“We were just hoping he’d be able to hold out a little bit longer,” Oelke said. “But once they started getting him timed, and he started leaving pitches up in the strike zone, that was when things started to go wrong.”
Six Trojan errors didn’t help. Even so, Oelke praised Hoisington’s improved hitting from early in the season.
“This (Cardinal) team was night and day from what we saw in Week 2,” Oelke said. “I was really impressed with the job the coach over there had done.”
Oelke said his own team battled well at the plate, too, but didn’t get many breaks. Twice the Trojans hit the ball on the nose with runners on base—once with the bases loaded—only to have it caught and a runner doubled off to end the inning.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the ball to get through,” he said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of maintaining contact. We only struck out a few times. But defensively, they played a little better than they did earlier in the season.”
With the loss, the Trojans finished the year with an 8-9 record, the first losing season in Oelke’s seven years at the Trojan helm.
“We knew it was going to be tough, and there were only two games I can think of that I felt we let get away from us and that we should have won,” he said.
“For the most part, we just struggled. I don’t know that we ever got into a real flow, between various (student) trips, combined with snow and rain days. It just seemed we had a tough time getting any kind of consistent play.”
On the positive side, Oelke applauded the improvement Nuss and Hamm made at the plate this season, finishing with team-leading averages of .500 .491, respectively, and 15 and 14 runs batted in.
Oelke reached the 100-win milestone during the season, bringing his career mark to 103-47 by season’s end.
The Trojan coach will be losing six seniors to graduation, including Nuss, Hamm and Riesen, who batted .333.
“We’ll come back next year and try some different approaches with some things,” said Oelke, who anticipates a rebuilding year as his roster turns considerably younger.
“We’ll take what we can.”