ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The long and the short of Hillsboro American Legion Post 366’s doubleheader at Council Grove Sunday is that Hillsboro won both games-the long one and the short one.
Hillsboro escaped the opener in 11 innings, 5-4, then came back to win a five-inning second game, 5-0.
After rain had postponed its single-game season opener at McPherson on Tuesday, then washed out a doubleheader at Augusta on Thursday, Post 366 finally made its debut at Council Grove for what was supposed to be a pair of seven-inning games.
But by the time the outcome of the first game was finally determined, coaches for both teams agreed to an abbreviated second contest.
The first game started as a pitching duel between Hillsboro’s Jerod Metcalf and Council Grove’s Tanner Buchman.
Hillsboro got the early edge when leadoff hitter Dustin Jost was hit by a pitch to start the game. He advanced to second on a ground out by Caleb Marsh, and then scored on a single to center by Metcalf.
Council Grove came right back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Jesse Oleen tripled to lead off, then scored on a fielder’s choice on a ball hit by Jesse Knight. Knight scored on a single by Derek Scott followed by a passed ball on a third strike to Nathan Hayes.
That 2-1 Council Grove lead held until the fifth inning, when Hillsboro scored twice and took a 3-2 advantage.
Metcalf opened the inning with a single past third base, Graham Ratzlaff walked and then Shawn Hughbanks doubled to score Metcalf. Ratzlaff then scored on a sacrifice bunt by Steven Chisholm.
Hillsboro added what appeared to be an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Jost and Marsh singled, then attempted a double steal. A bad throw to third by the catcher enabled Jost to cross the plate for the 4-2 advantage.
But in the bottom of the seventh, Council Grove scored twice to tie the game.
Travis Mayer led off with a single and Justin Falter reached base when first baseman Ben Walker couldn’t secure a low throw on Falter’s ground ball. Daniel Brakenhoff then doubled to score Mayer and Buchman singled to score Falter.
With the score tied and runners at first and third with nobody out, Brakenhoff was thrown out at home when he tried to score on a ground ball. Metcalf then got Jeremy Cosgrove to fly out and Oleen to ground out to end the inning and keep his team in the game.
The 4-4 score lasted through the next three innings. Chisholm took over on the mound in the eighth inning and kept Council Grove off the board.
But Hillsboro shot blanks, too, until the top of the 11th when Marsh walked, stole second and then advanced to third when the throw from the catcher skipped into center field. When a throw to nail Marsh at third base sailed into the Council Grove dugout, Marsh was awarded home for the go-ahead run.
Chisholm (1-0) then shut the door in the bottom of the 11th to preserve the win. The lanky right-hander earned the victory with four shutout innings in relief. The only hit he allowed occurred in the 10th inning when Hillsboro’s bunt coverage failed. Chisholm struck out two batters and walked two.
In seven innings of work, Metcalf gave up seven hits, but also got a couple of tough breaks on defense that contributed to a couple of Council Grove runs.
In Game 2, Jost and Marsh combined for a three-hit shutout. Jost (1-0) carried the load for four innings, giving up two hits and two walks. He struck out one.
Marsh surrendered one hit in the fifth inning and struck out two batters.
The Hillsboro hitters, meanwhile, pecked away at Council Grove starter Justin Falter as the game progressed.
After a scoreless first inning, Hillsboro touched him for a run in the second when Marsh was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on Falter’s wild pick-off attempt, then crossed the plate two outs later on an infield single by Tyler Goldsby.
In the third inning, Hillsboro scored again, this time on a one-out single by Metcalf followed by a run-scoring double by Jost to right center.
Hillsboro added its final three runs in the fourth. Ratzlaff walked to lead off, but was forced at second base on a grounder by Chisholm. Goldsby then doubled off the glove of the Council Grove left fielder, scoring Chisholm.
After Walker flied out, Brubacher blooped a single to put runners at first and third. Another wild pick-off attempt enabled Goldsby to score and Brubacher to advance to second. Metcalf then drove in Brubacher with a single to center for the 5-0 lead.
“Our pitchers kept us in the game,” coach Brady Marsh said. “Our bats were a little sluggish in the first game.
Hughbanks was the team’s most consistent hitter, going 5-for-9 for the afternoon.
“Offensively,w e had to manufacture runs,” Brady Marsh said. “Until we get the bats going, we’re going to have to nickel-and-dime runs and get them however we can.”
Marsh said he was pleased with his team’s defense.
“We didn’t kick too many balls around and our pitching was solid. If we can do that, we give ourselves a good chance to win some ball games.”
Post 366, which was scheduled for a doubleheader in Andover on Tuesday, will participate in a tournament in Augusta which begins Friday.