Legion takes hard road to 2nd place

In the end, the fate of Hillsboro Post 366 at the American Legion Zone V Tournament last week may have been decided in the first game instead of the last one.

Officially, Hillsboro lost the championship to top-seeded Nickerson, 8-0, Saturday night at Memorial Field. But when Hillsboro lost its tournament opener Thursday to Lyons, it faced the enormous challenge of having to play all the way through the losers’ bracket to take the title-five wins in two days.

Playing its best baseball of the season-including great pitching performances from Jeremy Hanes, Dustin Jost and Chase Freeborn-Hillsboro came close with three straight wins.

That pitted them against a talented Nickerson team that had played more than 50 games during the season but only two in the tournament. To win the title, Hillsboro would have to had to beat Nickerson twice in the double-elimination format.

Through the first several innings of the first game, Hillsboro looked up to the task.

Hanes, coming off a five-inning no-hitter against Hoisington the night before, gave up only two unearned runs on two hits through four innings.

But the righthander from Marion was touched for two more Nickerson runs in the fifth on a single, a walk and then a two-run double by Bubba Hoschouer for a 4-0 deficit.

The magic-and the season-ended for Hillsboro in the sixth, when Nickerson scored four more times on four hits to make the score 8-0 and give the top seed a run-rule victory.

As it turned out, two runs was all the support Nickerson pitcher Noal Krol needed. The righthander was on his game, allowing only one Hillsboro hit and striking out seven-but the baseball gods weren’t smiling on the home team either.

“He was throwing the ball good,” Hillsboro coach Lyman Adams said of Krol. “But it was one of those games that when we did hit the ball hard, it was right at them and you don’t get anything for it.”

Adams was disappointed in the opening loss, but pleased with the way his team came together during the rest of the tournament.

“We put ourselves in a deep hole by losing that first game, but the kids rallied and had a good time,” he said. “This was the first time we really jelled as a team. I was really proud of the kids.”

Hillsboro ended the season with a 15-11 record.

Hillsboro 8, Lyons 0

Finals, Losers’ Bracket

Chase Freeborn gave Hillsboro its third straight outstanding pitching performance, shutting out Lyons on two hits in a revenge match that thrust Post 366 into the title game.

Freeborn, who struck out four and walked three, never pitched to more than five batters in any one inning on the way to the victory.

As it turned out, Hillsboro scored all the runs it needed in the first inning on a walk to Dustin Jost, a single by Kris Jones and an error by the Lyons shortstop on a ball hit by Jeremy Sheffler for a 2-0 lead.

The host team broke the game open with three runs in the third inning. Sheffler and Freeborn led off with back-to-back singles. After Jamey Cooper struck out, Andy Brubacher reached first on another error by the shortstop, and Shawn Hughbanks and Robert Verbic followed with back-to-back singles.

Hillsboro 7, Hoisington 4

Second Round, Losers’ Bracket

Hillsboro’s Dustin Jost allowed no hits and struck out 14 batters over six innings to eliminate Hoisington in the second round of the loser’s bracket Friday evening.

Reliever Jeremy Sheffler threw a hitless seventh and final inning to nail down the no-hitter and the victory for Hillsboro.

Helped by a couple errors, Hillsboro led 2-0 after an inning and a half. Hoisington struck back in the third when Jost walked Justin Sanders and Cody Schremmer reached on an error to put runners on first and third with one out.

Jost struck out the next batter, then got Steven Eurich to hit a grounder to short that should have ended the inning, but Jamey Cooper’s throw to first was wild and both runners scored to tie the game at 2-2.

Cooper redeemed himself in the top of the third with a bloop single to right center to drive in Kris Jones and Jeremy Sheffler, who had singled and walked, respectively.

Hillsboro added three more runs in the fifth on consecutive singles by Jones, Sheffler and Chase Freeborn to score Jones, and then a two-out single by Corey Thiessen to drive in Sheffler and Freeborn.

Meanwhile, Jost was on the mark most of the night until tiring in the sixth. Three times he registered all three outs in the inning on strikeouts. He walked seven hitters in all, three of them in the sixth.

Hillsboro 13, Lindsborg 3

First Round, Losers’ Bracket

Jeremy Hanes threw a five-inning no-hitter and Andy Brubacher drove in six runs with three hits to lead Hillsboro to a run-rule victory over Lindsborg Friday afternoon.

Both teams, aided by errors, scored runs in the first inning without a base hit. Lindsborg held a 2-1 advantage until the top of the third inning.

With one out, Jeremy Sheffler drew a walk and was then forced at second base on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Chase Freeborn. After Jamey Cooper walked, Brubacher delivered a two-run double to give Hillsboro a 3-2 advantage.

The host team broke the game open with five more runs in the fourth on only two hits. Robert Verbic walked and stole second to lead off the inning. Ben Walker struck out but the ball got past the catcher. Walker ran safely to first and Verbic advanced to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Jost.

After Kris Jones walked and Sheffler popped out, Freeborn hit a hard double-play grounder to third, but the ball slipped past the third baseman, scoring Walker and Jones. Cooper followed with a bloop double to score Freeborn, and Brubacher drove in Cooper with a single to center.

Brubacher’s two-out base-loaded single on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth drove in all three runners and put Hillsboro 10 runs up.

Meanwhile, after a shaky first inning, Hanes settled into a groove and dominated the Lindsborg lineup, striking out eight along the way.

Lyons 15, Hillsboro 8

Tournament Opener

Infield errors and impatience at the plate undermined second-seeded Hillsboro in their tournament opener Thursday evening against third-seeded Lyons.

With Lyons leading 2-1 heading into the bottom of the second, Hillsboro appeared ready to take charge by scoring six runs and posting a 7-2 lead.

After pitcher Jamey Cooper and Shawn Hughbanks opened the innning with singles, Graham Ratzlaff drove them in with a double to right center. Two outs later, with runners on first and second, Ratzlaff scored on a double by Jeremy Sheffler. Chase Freeborn then doubled to drive in Dustin Jost, who had reached base when he was hit by a pitch, and Sheffler. Freeborn later scored on a couple of wild pitches.

But Lyons came right back in the top of the third inning with six runs off Cooper to take an 8-7 lead. The righthander gave up four hits and walked two in the inning. But a wild pitch and three Hillsboro errors, all with two outs in the inning, enabled the last three Lyons runs to score.

Hillsboro tied the score at 8-8 in the bottom of the third and appeared to have an edge when Lyons’ Nick Beneke took over on the mound for starter Zac Dobbins to start the inning.

Beneke’s below-average fastball looked to be more than hittable, but the righthander kept overeager Hillsboro hitters off stride by mixing in a bushel of breaking pitches and shut out the host team over the last four innings.

Infield errors helped Lyons score the go-ahead run in the fifth and three more runs in the sixth inning to take a 12-8 lead. Hillsboro committed seven errors in the game.

Nickerson 8, Hillsboro 0

July 28, Memorial Field, championship game

Hillsboro (15-11)      0 0 0      0 0 0-0 1 3

Nickerson      0 2 0      0 2 4-8 7 1

Hillsboro pitching: Jeremy Hanes (L) 5.0 innings, 26 AB, 4 K, 4 BB, 4 H, 5 R, 2 HBP; Jamey Cooper 0.2 innings, 4 AB, 1 K 0 BB, 3 H, 3 R, 0 HBP. Catcher: Kris Jones.

Hillsboro hitting (ab-r-h-rbi): Dustin Jost 3-0-0-0, Kris Jones 3-0-1-0, Jeremy Sheffler 3-0-0-0, Chase Freeborn 2-0-0-0, Jamey Cooper 2-0-0-0, Andy Brubacher 2-0-0-0, Shawn Hughbanks 2-0-0-0, Robert Verbic 2-0-0-0, Steven Chisholm 1-0-0-0, Graham Ratzlaff 1-0-0-0. Totals: 21-0-1-0.

Hillsboro 8, Lyons 0

July 28, Memorial Field, losers’ bracket finals

Hillsboro (15-10)      2 0 3      0 1 2-8 11 0

Lyons      0 0 0      0 0 0-0 2 3

Hillsboro pitching: Chase Freeborn (W) 6.0 innings, 23 AB, 4 K, 3 BB, 2 H, 0 R, 1 HB. Catcher: Kris Jones.

Hillsboro hitting (ab-r-h-rbi): Dustin Jost 2-1-1-0, Kris Jones 4-1-3-0, Jeremy Sheffler 4-1-1-0, Chase Freeborn 3-3-0-1, Jamey Cooper 2-0-0-0, Andy Brubacher 3-1-1-2, Shawn Hughbanks 4-1-2-2, Robert Verbic 2-0-1-0, Graham Ratzlaff 1-0-0-0, Ben Walker 2-0-0-0. Totals: 27-8-11-5.

Hillsboro 7, Hoisington 4

July 27, Memorial Field, 2nd game losers’ bracket

Hillsboro (14-10)      1 1 2      0 3 0 0-7 7 5

Hoisington      0 2 0      0 1 1 0-4 1 2

Hillsboro pitching: Dustin Jost (W) 6.0 innings, 30 AB, 14 K, 7 BB, 1 H, 4 R, 1 HB; Jeremy Sheffler (S) 1.0 innings, 4 AB, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 H, 0 R, 0 HBP. Catcher: Kris Jones.

Hillsboro hitting (ab-r-h-rbi): Dustin Jost 3-1-1-0, Kris Jones 4-2-3-0, Jeremy Sheffler 3-2-2-0, Chase Freeborn 4-1-1-1, Jamey Cooper 3-0-1-2, Andy Brubacher 3-1-0-0, Corey Thiessen 3-0-1-2, Graham Ratzlaff 3-0-0-0, Steven Chisholm 0-0-0-0, Shawn Hughbanks 3-0-0-0. Totals: 29-7-7-5.

Hillsboro 13, Lindsborg 3

July 27, Memorial Field, 1st game losers’ bracket

Hillsboro (13-10)      1 2 5      5-13 6 2

Lindsborg      2 0 1      0- 3 0 3

Hillsboro pitching: Jeremy Hanes (W) 5.0 innings, 19 AB, 8 K, 1 BB, 0 H, 3 R, 0 HBP. Catcher: Kris Jones.

Hillsboro hitting (ab-r-h-rbi): Dustin Jost 2-1-0-0, Kris Jones 3-2-0-0, Jeremy Sheffler 2-0-0-0, Corey Thiessen 1-1-1-2, Chase Freeborn 2-2-0-0, Jamey Cooper 3-4-1-0, Andy Brubacher 4-0-3-6, Steven Chisholm 4-0-1-0, Robert Verbic 2-1-0-0, Ben Walker 1-2-0-0. Totals: 24-13-6-9. 2B: Brubacher, Cooper. SF: Jost.

Lyons 15, Hillsboro 8

July 26, Memorial Field, opening game

Lyons      0 2 6      0 1 3 3-15 11 3

Hillsboro (12-10)      1 6 1      0 0 0 0- 8 10 7

Hillsboro pitching: Jamey Cooper (L) 5.0 innings, 31 AB, 5 K, 4 BB, 7 H, 10 R, 2 HBP; Jeremy Sheffler 2.0 innings, 15 AB, 1 K, 4 BB, 4 H, 5 R. Catcher: Kris Jones.

Hillsboro hitting (ab-r-h-rbi): Dustin Jost 4-1-0-0, Kris Jones 4-1-0-0, Jeremy Sheffler 4-1-1-1, Chase Freeborn 5-1-2-2, Corey Thiessen 3-0-0-0, Jamey Cooper 2-1-2-0, Shawn Hughbanks 4-1-2-0, Graham Ratzlaff 3-1-2-2, Andy Brubacher 4-1-1-0. Totals: 33-8-10-5. 2B: Ratzlaff, Sheffler, Freeborn.

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