ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Explode early. Explode late.
Hillsboro used both scenarios to sweep a pair of run-rule games from Canton-Galva Friday in Canton.
The Trojans scored seven runs in the first inning on the way to a 23-8 five-inning rout in the first game, then blew open a close 6-5 contest with a six-run fifth and finished with a 19-5 win in six innings.
Hillsboro pounded out 37 hits for the evening, including six that flew over the Eagles’ short fences for home runs.
James Bina, the Trojans’ all-state catcher, had a monster night, going 6-for-9 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. The junior hit a decisive home run and a double, each with the bases loaded, in consecutive at-bats in the second game.
But Bina wasn’t the only one to put up impressive numbers. Steven Chisholm drove in six RBIs with two home runs in the first game, Dustin Jost went 7-for-11 and scored five times for the night, and Andy Brubacher finished with six hits in eight at-bats and eight RBIs.
For all the offense his team showed, though, coach Phil Oelke was most pleased with his team’s pitching.
“To be honest, I thought we did a fabulous job,” Oelke said. “We were around the plate for the most part all night.”
Jerod Metcalf (1-0) dominated the Eagles through the first three innings of Game One, allowing no hits and striking out six.
But with the Trojans leading 21-0 with one out in the bottom of the fourth, the home-plate umpire’s strike zone suddenly shrank. Metcalf couldn’t get a strike call, and ended up sandwiching a single and a double in the midst of five walks.
Oelke finally brought in Dustin Jost to relieve Metcalf with the score 21-6. One more hit drove in two more runs before Jost got the final two outs in the inning.
“I don’t like to bag on umpires, but I really feel that big inning was a farce,” Oelke said. “Here’s a kid who probably walked 10 guys total his first two years, then all of a sudden he walks five in an inning? The strike zone just disappeared. I was very disappointed with that because Jerod was pretty much totally controlling the game.”
Jost kept the ball for the start of the second game and recorded all nine outs by strikeouts during the three innings he pitched. Unfortunately, the junior also hit four batters, gave up a couple of hits and endured some critical fielding errors.
Metcalf came back into the game in the top of the fourth with Hillsboro leading 6-4. He gave up a solo home run to Seth Shaw with one out, but shut out the Eagles over the last three innings without giving up another hit. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.
“That speaks volumes about Jerod,” Oelke said. “He pretty much kept his head, though he was a little frustrated, obviously, at first. But he came back in that second game and went right back to work.”
Oelke was pleased with his team’s offensive output but said the short fences were a factor.
“Maybe two of those home runs were true home runs,” he said. “But we’ll take them, by all means.”
His team struggled in the field, though, committing five errors in the second game and six for the night.
“Defensively, I’m very, very concerned at this point,” Oelke said. “We’re booting the ball around and making some bad throws, and we made some poor decisions in that second game.
“That can go back to our inexperience,” he said. “But we’re getting to the heart of our schedule, and we can’t make those mistakes.”
Coming-The Trojans are in the midst of a challenging week. On Monday, they were scheduled to play Haven, an MCAA title contender, and are to play host to Smoky Valley on Friday. Next Tuesday, the Trojans travel to Nickerson, another MCAA contender.
The Smoky Valley and Nickerson games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, games against Lyons, scheduled for last Tuesday, were postponed because of cold weather. They have been rescheduled for Monday, April 22, in Lyons.