ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A late burst of power and determination enabled the Hillsboro baseball team to leave Wichita Collegiate’s well-manicured Cameron Field with its collective head held high.
The Trojans came back from a late 6-5 deficit to beat the Spartans, 9-6, in the second game of their doubleheader Friday.
The comeback was doubly important after Collegiate sophomore pitcher J.C. Bredengerd shackled the Trojans to post a five-hit 7-1 victory in the first game.
The Trojans found themselves in an early hole in Game 2 as well. After scoring twice in the first inning on a two-run single by James Bina, the Spartans roughed up starter Dustin Jost for four runs in their half of first and a fifth run in the second to take a 5-2 lead.
Jost, struggling from the mound for the first time this season, gave up four runs-three on a home run to Kevin Amos-in the opening inning.
In the second inning, the Spartans scored their fifth run with two outs on a hit batter and a base hit coupled with a Trojan error.
They increased the margin to 6-3 in the fourth on the strength of on a walk and two hit batters by Jost to load the bases, then a walk by reliever Steven Chisholm to force in the run, which was charged to Jost.
Hillsboro got that last run back on a home run by Bina to lead off the fifth inning, then pulled to with in 6-4 when Andy Brubacher sent a ball over the leftfield fence with two outs in the sixth.
With the Trojans three outs away from being swept, Bina led off the seventh with a walk. After Graham Ratzlaff flied out, Kris Jones singled and the runners advanced on an error. Chisholm walked to load the bases and Jerod Metcalf followed with a game-tying base hit .
After Chisholm shut out the Spartans in the bottom of the seventh, Hillsboro broke loose in the eighth with four runs on home runs by Jost and Jones that sandwiched a running-scoring double by Bina.
Coach Phil Oelke was pleased with his team’s gutsy comeback after trailing early and then losing Shawn Hughbanks to ejection in the fourth inning.
“At that point I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said after Hughbanks took a seat.
Oelke praised Chisholm’s performance in relief as a key factor. The senior, coming off a shaky start against Moundridge earlier in the week, shut out the Spartans over 42/3 innings on two hits. He struck out five and walked three.
“It was as great performance on Steve’s part,” Oelke said. “We needed that.
“This was the first time maybe all year that his off-speed pitches worked. He had kids turning in thinking they’d get beaned, and then getting called for strikes.”
The first game was about one more opponent playing perhaps its best game of the season against the Trojans.
Not only was Bredengerd increasingly overpowering as the game went along, striking out 12 Trojans along the way, but his teammates backed him with great defense.
“It seems like we bring out the best in everybody,” Oelke said. “Coach (Mike) Gehrer…said that was the best game they’ve played all year and it was the best pitching performance (Bredengerd) put on since he’s been with Collegiate.
“He said they had booted the ball consistently every game until that point-and they made some great plays against us.”
Meanwhile, Trojan ace Jerod Metcalf (2-3) continued a recent funk, giving up all seven Spartan runs, including a grand slam to Amos in the fifth to break the game open.
“He’s still keeping the ball up a little bit,” Oelke said about Metcalf. “That’s something he’s going to get ironed out. He’s going to come around.”
Hillsboro scored its only run of the game in the second inning on a double by Jones, a sacrifice by Jared Fish and then a run-scoring single by Chisholm.
Coming-The Trojans have a full week scheduled. They were to have played Clay Center on Tuesday, then are to make up a couple of rescheduled games on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, Lyons come to town, then the Trojans will turn around and play Smoky Valley at Lindsborg on Saturday.
The tight scheduling has Oelke concerned about his pitching staff.
“If we get four out of six games I would be happy with that,” he said. “We don’t have the staff to play the games we’ve got scheduled right now.”
With his team still struggling to find its stride, Oelke said better execution is more important than victories at this point in the season.
The Trojans will play host to Inman on Tuesday in the final regular season games of the year.