ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro baseball team discovered firsthand Tuesday what a lot of coaches in Kansas already believe: Not only was Lyons the best team in Class 3A a year ago, but the Lions are probably the best team again this season.
The Trojans lost to the defending league and state champions in convincing fashion, 11-0 and 15-2 in a pair of five-inning, run-rule contests at Lyons.
“I didn’t necessarily know what to expect, but they are a very good high school team for Class 3A, Class 4A or in whatever class you put them in,” Trojan coach Tyler Marsh said.
One of the Lions’ strengths is their pitching. Blaine Clark tossed a no-hitter in Game 1. The Trojans did scratch out five hits and two runs in Game 2 against Tyler Viramontez and Martinez.
Perhaps most impressive, the Lyons pitchers did not walk a batter in 10 innings and hit only one.
“They just threw strikes,” Marsh said. “Their guys hit the ball well and defensively they’re pretty solid-they didn’t beat themselves.”
Marsh felt his team played better in Game 2.
“I don’t know if it was that we were playing the defending state champs and the guys were a little tight, but the first game wasn’t necessarily what we wanted,” he said.
“In the second game we came out with better swings-we had five hits. The guys were more aggressive. I liked what I saw in the second game.”
In Game 1, Chad Hughbanks started on the mound for Hillsboro. The right-hander held the Lions to a pair of runs in the opening despite giving up two hits and enduring two Trojan errors.
But Lyons scored five runs in the second inning-including a grand-slam home run by Viramontez-and four more runs in third for the 11-0 lead.
Hughbanks was charged with all 11 runs in 22/3 innings of work. Four of the runs were unearned as the Trojans committed six errors in the first three innings.
Aaron Stepanek pitched the final 11/3 innings, retiring all four batters he faced.
In Game 2, Adam Scheele gave up seven runs in the first inning but shut down the Lions in the second and third innings that he pitched. The junior right-hander gave up five hits, five walks, hit a batter and struck out three.
Lucas Hamm relieved Scheele in the fourth and was shelled for seven runs on two hits, four walks and one hit batsman. He left the game without retiring a batter.
R.J. Toal relieved him and give up one more run on two hits against the five batters he faced.
“Right now, we have a pitch limit,” Marsh said of his pitchers. “In the same breath, I want them to be able to pitch out of their own jams. I don’t want to bail them out by putting in a new pitcher. Because of that, we give up some big innings early on. But hopefully they learn from that, and that will change later in the season.”
The Trojans scored one of their runs in the third inning on a lead-off homer by Tyler Goldsby. Their other run came in the fourth when Hughbanks was hit by a pitch and Scheele followed with a triple.
“We’re definitely improving,” Marsh said of his team. “We still have a ways to go. The next time we’ll see Lyons will probably be regionals. They’re solid right now and we’re hopefully on our way there.”
Coming-The Trojans (0-4) were scheduled for a doubleheader at Marion on Tuesday and then will host Nickerson on Friday at Memorial Field. Game 1 is set for 4:30 p.m.