ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Yogi Berra’s observation that “It ain’t over until it’s over” proved true at Monday’s regional baseball game between the Hillsboro Trojans and the Marion Warriors.
Marion rallied from a six-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning to score seven runs and take the lead-only to see Hillsboro tie the game in the top of the seventh before the Warriors ended the Trojans’ season with a single run in the bottom of the seventh for a 12-11 win.
Hillsboro jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Jared Fish singled and scored on a ground out by Chad Hughbanks.
Adam Scheele tripled with two outs and scored on a botched pickoff attempt.
Hillsboro made it 3-0 in the top of the second inning when Jesse Boucher led off with a single, stole second, took third on an Aaron Stepanek single and scored on a sacrifice fly from Fish.
In the third inning, Scheele led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch from Marion starter Jimmy Shipman, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a Shipman balk to make the score 4-0.
Marion finally scored in the bottom of the third when Tyson Heidebrecht walked with one out, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch from Hughbanks, and scored on the back side of a double steal to cut the lead to 4-1.
But the Trojans answered with four more runs in the top of the fourth inning.
Justin Moore was hit by a pitch to lead off, stole second and took third on a wild pitch.
Following a walk to Stepanek, Fish singled home Moore.
Tyler Goldsby then drilled a two-run single to score both Stepanek and Fish.
Goldsby eventually scored on a single by Michael Bookless to put Hillsboro on top 8-1.
Marion got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning when Josh Kelsey singled to lead off and scored on a pinch hit double from Clayton Garnica to cut the lead to 8-2.
Marion replaced Shipman on the mound with Clayton Chamberland to begin the fifth inning, but the Trojans greeted Chamberland with a lead off single from Boucher and a run-scoring ground out from Moore to put Hillsboro on top 9-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Stubenhofer was hit by a pitch to lead off and scored on a two-run home run blast over the left-center field fence from Chamberland to cut the lead to 9-4.
Hillsboro countered with a single run in the sixth when Goldsby reached on an error and scored on a double by Hughbanks to make the score 10-4.
But the Warriors mounted their best rally of the season in the bottom of the inning scoring seven times to take an 11-10 lead.
Stubenhofer accounted for one RBI, Chamberland had a two-run single, Shipman singled home a run, Kelsey doubled home a run, and Neil Waner singled home two runs to cap the comeback.
“Hughbanks threw an effective curveball through the first four innings, but he started to get tired,” Marion coach Sean Spoonts said. “His pitches stayed high and his curve balls stayed low and it was just a matter of time before we got to him.”
Trailing by a run in its last at bat, Hillsboro parlayed a hit Boucher into a tying run when Stepanek put down a perfect suicide squeeze to score the runner.
But a diving catch by David DeForest at shortstop cut the rally short leaving the door open for Marion.
Stubenhofer led off with a walk off reliever Brandon Moss.
After stealing second, Stubenhofer scored the winning run on a single by Heidebrecht to send the Warriors to the next round against Lyons.
Chamberland got the win in relief while Moss took the loss.
“All these kids have worked hard all year and never gave up, not once,” Spoonts said. “We’ve been highly competitive for us to only have four wins.
“This was kind of a win over Hillsboro like they had over us to begin the season,” he added. “They let it slip away just like we did then.”
In his final game as head coach of the Trojans, Dustin McEwen knew the Trojans had let the opportunity for a victory slip away.
“We play 61/2 good innings and one half that wasn’t so good,” he said. “It’s a tough one to take. Marion had a couple of kids come up with some key hits.”
Concluding the season with a record of 4-15, McEwen said he and his team learned a lot.
“Our young kids continued to work hard for us and to learn and battle as the season went along,” he said. “I think Hillsboro has some bright things to look for in the future.
“Some of our young kids got a lot of varsity experience they wouldn’t have gotten in other schools,” he added. “Coach (Jess) Tracy did a great job of teaching baseball and they’ll do just fine.”