ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro baseball team dropped a pair of heart-breaking games to Halstead last Friday, losing a late-inning lead in a 13-10 decision in the opener, then falling short in a late rally of their own in Game 2, 11-10.
The two losses lowered Hillsboro’s season record to 1-7.
In the opener, Hillsboro jumped to a 6-1 lead through 21/2 innings. Adam Scheele’s RBI double was the big hit in a three-run first inning; he hit another double in a two-run second inning.
Meanwhile, pitcher Brandon Moss held Halstead to a single run in the opening inning, but Halstead touched him for three more in the bottom of the third to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 6-4.
The Dragons scored four more times in the fourth inning on four hits, a hit batter and a Trojan error.
Now trailing the Dragons, 8-6, Hillsboro regained the lead with a four-run sixth inning. Troy Frick led off with a single. Two outs later, Scheele whacked his third double of the game. An error on a ball hit by Michael Bookless, a walk to Moss and a single by Justin Moore resulted in three more runs.
But in this seesaw battle, the Dragons scored five times in the bottom of the sixth. The big hit was a home run by Omar Hasan off freshman reliever Travis Riesen, who was making his varsity debut.
By the time the dust cleared, Hillsboro trailed 13-10 and needed one more rally. But the Trojans could not muster more than a two-out single by Fish in the top of the seventh.
Scheele had a huge game with three doubles in four at-bats. He scored twice and drove in one run.
Moss absorbed the loss, giving up 11 runs on nine hits in 51/3 innings. Only six runs were earned. He walked three and struck out one.
In Game 2, Hillsboro fell behind after two innings, 4-0. Halstead got to starter Jared Fish for only two hits, but the senior plunked four batters, including three straight to lead off the second inning.
Michael Bookless relieved him with no one out in the second and retired the next three hitters.
Hillsboro rallied to within a run of the Dragons in the third by scoring three times on singles by Boucher and Bookless and a double by Moss. In between, the Trojans picked up a pair of walks as well.
The Trojans then took the lead with two more runs in the fourth on a single by Aaron Stepanek, a double by Fish and a single by Tyler Goldsby.
But Halstead responded to the bell with five runs in the fourth to take a 9-5 lead. A hit batter, three consecutive walks and a single to begin the inning marked the end of Bookless’s relief appearance. Chad Hughbanks eventually retired the side, but not before Halstead had its four-run advantage.
Halstead added two runs in the fifth to push the lead to 11-5.
This time the Trojans came back, scoring four times in the top of the sixth to narrow the gap to 11-9. Boucher singled, Fish doubled and Goldsby ripped his first home run of the season for three runs. Scheele walked and eventually scored Hillsboro’s ninth run of the game.
When Hughbanks shut out Halstead in the bottom of the sixth, Hillsboro was poised to complete the comeback, trailing by only a run.
Boucher led off with his third single of the game. After Stepanek struck out, Fish singled. Goldsby flied out to the second baseman, but Scheele walked to load the bases. Bookless then walked to drive in Boucher.
With the tying run at third, Moss flied out to the second baseman for the Trojans’ third and final out.
Fish took the loss for the Trojans, giving up four runs in one full inning of work. Together with Bookless and Hughbanks, the Trojan pitching staff surrendered eight hits, walked six and hit five batters for the game.
“We’re not going to develop big-time pitchers overnight,” said coach Dustin McEwen, whose staff gave up 23 runs for the day and is averaging double-digit runs per game for the season.
“You think when you score 20 runs for the day you probably have a good chance of winning,” he said. “Our pitchers are doing the best they can-and I don’t think our defense isn’t making the big plays behind them either.”
McEwen said his team competed well against Halstead, but he hoped they could come away with a win or two wins against the Dragons, who are in their first season with a baseball program.
“It really was like two programs starting over,” he said, referring to his own inexperienced lineup. “We just didn’t make key plays like we needed to and they did.”
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to take on Smoky Valley on Tuesday, then will play a doubleheader at Inman in Friday, with Game 1 beginning at 4:30 p.m.