American Legion season ends at ‘Ottawa Zone’

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
On a day when defense wasn’t necessarily their forte, the Hillsboro American Legion baseball team did excel in persistence at the zone tournament in Ottawa Sunday.

The team made an early exist from the six-team double elimination tournament with an opening loss to Andover, 9-6, followed by a tough loss to Silver Lake, 13-10.

Fighting an uphill battle against quality competition and searing heat, Hillsboro kept the few fans who made the trek up Interstate 35 riding an emotional roller coaster.

“We haven’t been playing defense very well the last four games,” said coach Brady Marsh. “It finally caught up with us at a bad time of the year.

Andover-With the game-time temperature surpassing 100 degrees, Hillsboro struck first blood in its tournament opener.

Caleb Marsh walked to start the game and Jerod Metcalf on a fielder’s choice. Dustin Jost then forced out Metcalf with a ground ball, sending Marsh to third.

With Graham Ratzlaff at the plate, Jost set off for second base. When the throw went through to second, Marsh took off and successfully stole home to give Hillsboro a quick 1-0 lead.

Andover tied it in its half of the first. Tony Lee reached on an error by Jost at shortstop, stole second, moved to third on a fly ball and scored on a ground out by Drew Armagost.

Pitchers Baxter of Andover and Metcalf of Hillsboro battled on even terms until the bottom of the third, when Andover scored three more runs.

Marsh made a good play on a grounder hit by Elliott but his errant throw allowed Elliott to reach to second.

One out later, Elliott moved to third on a ground out and scored when Armagost beat out an infield single to give Andover a 2-1 lead.

Powell followed with a ground-rule double over the fence in left field. Armagost scored when Metcalf launched a wild pitch to give Andover a 3-1 lead. A single by John Craytor drove home Powell with Andover’s fourth run.

Metcalf escaped further damage by inducing a ground out with the bases loaded.

In the top of the fourth, Hillsboro got its own offense going with two outs.

Ben Walker drew a walk and Jared Fish reached on an error by the Andover third baseman. Marsh made Andover pay when he whacked a two-run triple into the gap in right center, cutting the margin to 4-3.

Metcalf helped his own cause by chasing home Marsh with an single to tie the game, 4-4.

Andover regained the lead in the fifth on consecutive singles, a catcher’s interference call on Steven Chisholm and a sacrifice fly.

Andover added four more runs in the sixth on a hit batter, two singles and a two-run home run from Powell, chasing Metcalf with a 9-4 lead.

Hillsboro tried to rally in the top of the seventh when Jost singled and later scored on a single by Shawn Hughbanks.

Back-to-back walks to Chad Hughbanks and Chisholm loaded the bases to chase Baxter, who pitched a stellar game in oppressive conditions.

Pung, in relief, promptly hit Walker with a pitch to cut the lead to 9-6 with the bases still loaded.

But in a bizarre ending, Fish lined a grounder to a diving shortstop who flipped to second for the force out.

When Hughbanks tried to score from third, he was cut down at the plate to end the game.

“Metcalf really battled for us,” Brady Marsh said. “He just got worn out in the heat.”

Silver Lake-With Hillsboro facing elimination against Silver Lake, pitcher Dustin Jost walked lead-off hitter Chris Wickman, who later scored on a single by Jeremy Ross to give Silver Lake a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

But Hillsboro came back in the home half of the inning with four runs off starter Josh Maike.

Jerod Metcalf and Jost singled with one out before Graham Ratzlaff doubled to drive in Metcalf. Shawn Hughbanks followed with a single to score Jost.

Brian Swenson delivered the big blow of the inning, a two-run double, to give Hillsboro a 4-1 lead.

But the second inning resembled a home-run derby by Silver Lake with three balls leaving the park-two for two runs and the third a solo blast.

By the time the inning was over, Hillsboro trailed, 7-4.

Hughbanks relieved Jost to start the third inning and surrendered a solo home run to give Silver Lake an 8-4 lead.

While Hillsboro struggled against Maike, Silver Lake kept up the pressure, scoring two more runs in the top of the fourth for a 10-4 advantage.

Rather than cave in, Hillsboro stepped up in the bottom of the fifth. Ratzlaff drew a one-out walk and moved to third on a single by Hughbanks.

Swenson again delivered, this time with a single to score Ratzlaff and cut the lead to 10-5.

Steven Chisholm then lined a bullet to left to score Hughbanks to narrow the gap to 10-6.

Silver Lake asked Luke Perry to put out the Hillsboro fire, but Jared Fish slapped a seeing-eye single up the middle to drive home two more runs and cut the lead to 10-8.

Caleb Marsh followed with a triple to right center, scoring Fish, and Metcalf drove Marsh home with a single to tie the game.

Jost drew a walk to put runners on first and second, but then was picked off to end the inning.

With Marsh now on the hill for Post 366, Silver Lake wasted no time regaining the lead.

Three consecutive singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly produced three runs and a 13-10 advantage heading into the bottom of the seventh.

Facing elimination and the end of the season, Hillsboro made one last effort to pull out a win.

Ratzlaff drew a lead-off walk, but Hughbanks popped to second and Swenson grounded into a double play to end the tournament and the season.

Hillsboro finished with a 20-12 record.

“I thought we had a good team and a pretty good season,” Brady Marsh said. “We played our best ball at the McPherson tournament and the Augusta tournament. I wish we could have played that well all year.

“We had a talented group of guys,” he added. “I was happy with the season, but not the way it ended.”

Andover 9, Hillsboro 6

Game 1, zone tournament at Ottawa, July 20

Hillsboro (20-11) 1 0 0 3 0 0 2- 6 7 4

Andover 1 0 3 0 1 4 x -9 12 4

Hillsboro pitching: Metcalf (L), 5.1 innings, 33 batters, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks, 12 hits, 9 runs, 7 earned runs, 1 wild pitch, 1 hit batter; Hughbanks, 0.2 innings, 3 batters, 1 strikeout, 1 walk, 0 hits, 0 runs. Catcher: Chisholm.

Hillsboro hitting: (ab-r-h-rbi) Marsh 3-2-1-2, Metcalf 4-0-1-1, Jost 4-1-1-0, Ratzlaff 3-0-1-0, S. Hughbanks 4-1-1-1, Swenson 1-0-1-0, Chisholm 3-0-0-0, Walker 1-1-1-0, Fish 3-1-0-0, C. Hughbanks 2-0-0-0. Totals: 28-6-7-4. 3B: Marsh.

S

Silver Lake 13, Hillsboro 11

Game 2, zone tournament, July 20 at Ottawa

S. Lake (19-13) 1 6 1 2 0 3 0-13 6 2

Hillsboro (20-12) 4 0 0 0 6 0 1-11 14 3

Hillsboro pitching: Jost, 2 innings, 14 batters, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks, 6 hits, 7 runs, 7 earned runs, 3 wild pitches, 1 balk; Hughbanks, 3 innings, 16 batters, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 earned run, 1 hit batter; Marsh (L), 1 inning, 6 batters, 1 strikeout, 0 walks, 1 wild pitch, 3 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs. Catcher: Chisholm.

Hillsboro hitting: (ab-r-h-rbi) Marsh 5-1-2-2, Metcalf 5-1-2-1, Jost 4-1-1-0, Ratzlaff 2-2-2-1, S. Hughbanks 4-2-3-1, Swenson 4-2-2-3, Chisholm 4-2-1-1, Walker 2-0-0-0, Fish 4-1-1-2. Totals: 34-11-14-11. 3B: Marsh, Hughbanks. 2B: Marsh, Ratzlaff.

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