ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Following a bizarre conclusion to its scheduled doubleheader at home against Halstead on Thursday, Hillsboro American Legion Post 366 had extended its winning streak to nine games.
Hillsboro took the opener, 9-3, behind the effective pitching Chad Hughbanks.
The loss apparently didn’t take the fight out of Halstead, though. The only problem was, Halstead was fighting among themselves.
Fisticuffs erupted between teammates between games. Parents eventually stopped the punches, but officials stopped the second game even before it began.
“They’ve apparently had some internal problems within their team,” said Hillsboro coach Lyman Adams. “They’ve been having trouble the whole year. Since they brought just nine players, they weren’t able to play the second game.”
In the opener, Halstead hoped to avenge a pair of losses to Hillsboro just two nights when the visitors scored a run on the top of the first inning.
But in the bottom of the first, Hillsboro picked up right where it left off Tuesday night by scoring seven runs.
With one out, Shawn Hughbanks reached on an error, Mitch Enos walked, and Jimmy Shipman drove both runners home with a single.
Following a Clayton Garnica single, Shipman crossed home plate on a throwing error to make the score 3-1.
Chad Hughbanks walked on four pitches before Michael Bookless drove Garnica home for a 4-1 lead.
Tyson Heidebrecht then singled to left to drive home Hughbanks and Bookless.
Heidebrecht rounded out the scoring by crossing home plate on another Halstead error to push the lead to 7-1 after one inning.
“Getting an early lead is always important in a game,” Adams said. “That takes the heat off our pitchers.”
Hughbanks retired nine of the next 10 batters as Hillsboro cruised into the bottom of the fourth with its six-run lead.
Hillsboro added to its lead to 8-1 in the fourth when Shawn Hughbanks drew a one-out walk and scored on a single by Enos.
The home team added one more run in the fifth. Garnica and Chad Hughbanks singled and Adam Scheele was hit by a pitch. But Bookless struck out and Garnica was picked off third before Hughbanks scored on a throwing error to push the lead to 9-1.
Hillsboro had a chance to cut the game short via the 10-run rule when it loaded the bases on three walks. But Jared Fish popped out to send the game into the sixth.
With Bookless on the mound, Halstead used a throwing error and a single to slice the lead to 9-2.
Hillsboro again loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth but failed to score.
Another Hillsboro error allowed Halstead to score its third run of the game, but Scheele retired the final three batters to preserve the 9-3 victory.
Hughbanks picked up the win, throwing four strong innings. He allowed one hit-on the first pitch of the game-while striking out four and walking two.
Hillsboro pounded Halstead pitching for 10 hits.
“The last couple of weeks the kids have been swinging the bats really good,” Adams said. “We don’t bunt as much now because they’re swinging and making contact.”
With the victories, Hillsboro raised its record to 14-9 heading into tournament action.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Adams said. “You can just see the guys are having more fun and they’re a lot more confident.”
Hillsboro will start zone tournament play at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 14, at Council Grove by taking on Moundridge.
“My goal has always been to make it to state,” Adams said. “We’ve been runner-up at zone three or four times. We’re shooting for that next level, so we’ll just see what happens.”
At Halstead-Riding a wave of optimism, Hillsboro extended its winning streak to seven games Tuesday by beating Halstead on the road, 17-5 and 15-13.
In Game 1, Jimmy Shipman inherited a 4-0 lead before throwing his first pitch for Hillsboro.
In the top of the first, Jared Fish beat out in infield single, stole second and scored on a two-run home run by Shawn Hughbanks. It was Hughbank’s first appearance since being injured five weeks ago.
One out later, Mitch Enos walked, then Shipman put one over the fence for the 4-0 lead.
Halstead cut the lead in half in the home half of the first on a single, two walks and two hit batters.
Hillsboro regained its four-run edge in the second when Tyler Goldsby walked, then scored on Hughbanks’ second home run.
With Shipman holding Halstead at bay, Hillsboro increased its lead in the third inning. Kyle Jilka reached on an error, Shipman was hit by a pitch, and Clayton Garnica walked to load the bases before Adam Scheele ripped a single to drive home Jilka and Shipman.
Fish grounded out, but Garnica scored to push the lead to 9-2.
After Hughbanks was hit by a pitch, Enos singled in both runners for an 11-2 advantage.
Halstead’s Aaron Blank homered to lead off the third inning , but Shipman shut down the home team to keep the score at 11-3.
Shipman then belted his second home run of the game to make the score 12-3.
Hillsboro put the game away in the fifth with five more runs.
Goldsby doubled down the left field line and scored on Fish’s double to left center.
Hughbanks then drove in his fifth run of the game with a double off center-field fence to make the score 14-3. After Enos reached on an fielding error, Shipman drove in his fourth and fifth runs with a two-run single.
After Garnica was plunked by a pitch and Scheele beat out an infield single, Bookless was credited with a run batted in when he took a pitch in the shoulder to bring home Shipman and complete the scoring for Hillsboro.
Halstead scored twice on one hit against Fish in the seventh, but could not finish the rally.
Hillsboro produced 13 hits in the game. Shipman, meanwhile, allowed three runs on just two hits while striking out seven.
In Game 2, Hillsboro jumped to a 2-0 lead when Fish led off by reaching on an error, Jilka walked, and both runners scored on a Halstead error.
Garnica was on the mound for Hillsboro and kept Halstead scoreless through two innings.
But in the bottom of the third, Garnica surrendered four hits and issued three walks to fuel a six-run Halstead rally.
Hillsboro wasted no time answering, though. Michael Bookless led off the fourth with a walk, Goldsby singled and Fish reached on a fielder’s choice, which sent Goldsby home.
After Hughbanks walked, Enos singled to drive home both Fish and Hughbanks and whittle Halstead’s lead to 6-5.
Garnica struggled again in the fourth, allowing three hits and two runs to enable Halstead to stretch its lead to 8-5.
Scheele replaced Garnica on the mound to begin the fifth and worked out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the score at 8-5.
Hillsboro inched closer in the top of the sixth when Bookless walked, Goldsby singled and Fish reached on an error, which enabled Bookless to score.
When Fish stole second, the catcher’s throw sailed into center field, allowing Goldsby to score Hillsboro’s seventh run and cut the lead to one.
After Scheele walked three consecutive hitters to load the bases in the sixth, coach Lyman Adams sent in Enos to relieve.
But Enos was greeted with an single that pushed the lead to 9-7 before closing the door on Halstead’s rally.
Needing at least two runs to keep its streak alive, Hillsboro exploded for eight in the top of the seventh. Shipman led off with his third home run of the night to slice the lead to 9-8.
That’s when things got interesting. Scheele singled with one out. Bookless scorched a grounder off the glove of the shortstop, but Scheele was called out by an out-of-position umpire on a relay throw to third base for the second out.
The call ignited Hillsboro’s fire. Goldsby singled and Fish walked to load the bases with two outs. Shawn Hughbanks then slapped a two-run single to give Hillsboro a 10-9 lead.
Enos then walked, Jilka reached on a dropped third strike and Shipman rifled a two-run single. Garnica and Scheele both added base hits to push Hillsboro’s lead to 15-9.
Halstead scored four runs against Enos in the bottom of the seventh on three walks and two hits, but the Marion right-hander struck out the final batter to preserve the 15-13 victory.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL