ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A depleted Hillsboro baseball squad was no match for the Warriors of Marion-Florence-Peabody-Burns Friday at Memorial Field.
The Warriors won a pair of games by run rule: 13-0 in five innings and 18-1 in three innings.
With three players quitting earlier in the week and several more missing because of a schedule conflict, the Trojans who took the field were even younger and more inexperienced than usual. Some of the experienced players found themselves playing out of position to fill the holes.
Despite the handicap, the Trojans stayed in Game 1 until an 8-run Warrior explosion in the top of fifth inning blew the game open.
Sophomore Troy Frick battled gamely for Hillsboro, holding the Warriors to five runs through four innings.
In the opening inning, the Warriors capitalized on three straight walks by Frick to score two runs on a bases-loaded, two-out single by David DeForest.
The Warriors picked up a third run in the second inning. Derek Benson led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on an infield single by Cody Weerts. After Frick struck out the next two hitters, he uncorked a wild pitch that enabled Benson to score.
The Warriors bumped their lead to 5-0 in the top of the fourth when Tyson Heidebrecht and Todd Woodruff both reached on errors to start the inning. Bryan Swenson’s sacrifice fly enabled Heidebrecht to score and Woodruff eventually scored on a throwing error with two outs.
The flood gates opened in the fifth against a tiring Frick. In succession, Weerts singled, Heidebrecht reached on an error, Woodruff walked, Swenson reached on a bunt single and Josh Kelsey ripped a bases-loaded double. Then DeForest reached on an error, Ryan Gaines drove in a run on ground out and Preston Williams doubled down the left-field line.
Suddenly it was 11-0, and Trojan coach Tyler Marsh mercifully lifted Frick.
Jesse Boucher stepped in to pitch to one batter, Benson, whose single drove in Williams.
Freshman Gavin Serene then took his turn on the mound. He gave up a double to Zan Fine, who scored on a single by Heidebrecht for the Warriors’ 13th and final run of the game.
Meanwhile, Weerts had little trouble keeping the Trojans off the scoreboard. The junior right-hander gave up a bad-bounce double to lead-off hitter Jesse Boucher to open the game for Hillsboro, but Boucher got doubled-off when Lucas Hamm popped out on a bunt attempt.
Hillsboro’s only other base hit was a single by Tyler Goldsby in the fourth inning. Weerts finished with five strikeouts. He walked one Trojan and hit two.
The Trojans’ player shortage hit them hard in the pitching department. With Frick used up, Marsh was left with mostly inexperienced arms to keep the Warriors at bay in Game 2.
It didn’t work out well.
Justin Moore left third base to take the mound for HHS. Lead-off hitter Weerts set the tone for the game when he reached on fielding error at third by freshman substitute Zach Slayden.
In succession, Moore hit Heidebrecht, walked Woodruff and gave up a single to Swenson that scored Weerts and Heidebrecht.
After DeForest hit into a force play at second base that scored Woodruff, Kelsey reached on an error. After Gaines flied out and Aaron Burnett walked, Calvin Jeffrey lofted a fly ball to left field that popped out of the fielder’s glove, enabling DeForest and Kelsey to score and give the Warriors a 5-0 lead after the first half inning.
The Trojans got a break in the bottom of the inning against Swenson, the Warriors’ ace pitcher.
After Lucas Hamm led off with a single, a couple of Warrior errors loaded the bases. Dustin Strunk then singled in Hamm, but got caught between first and second for the initial out of the inning.
Swenson then settled in and struck out Frick and Shawon Nelson to end the threat.
The Warriors sent the game into the Twilight Zone with a 13-run outburst in the top of the second. Sixteen Warriors made it to the plate before the inning finally ended. Together, they slapped out six hits, drew three walks and benefitted from seven Trojan errors.
Moore lasted through the first five batters of the inning, then was replaced by his battery-mate, Goldsby. The lone Trojan senior battled gamely against the 10 batters he faced, but his teammates committed five of their seven errors during that stretch.
Strunk finally came in to relieve him and got the final out of the inning by getting Jeffrey to line out to Serene at second base.
Strunk, a freshman, struck out the first two Warriors he faced in the top of the third, then loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single by Swenson before getting Fine to fly out to right for the final out and a scoreless inning.
After his shaky start, Swenson struck out two of three hitters in the second inning, then gave way in the third inning to Burnett, who kept the Trojans off the scoreboard and struck out the last two of the five hitters he faced to end the game by run rule.
With the win, the Warriors improved their record to 9-7 while the Trojans dropped to 3-17.
Haven-Hillsboro dropped a pair of home games to Haven on Tuesday, May 2, 7-3 and 11-1 in five innings.
In the opener, Haven shut down the Hillsboro bats until the bottom of the sixth. The Trojans loaded the bases on an error, a single by Adam Scheele and a walk to Justin Moore before Travis Riesen stroked a two-run double. Riesen later scored on a single by John Vineski.
But Haven had already scored all seven of its runs against Scheele’s pitching. The Trojan left-hander allowed only four hits, but walked six. He struck out three.
Game 2 broke loose in the second inning when Haven shattered a scoreless tie with five runs against starter Chad Hughbanks. The Wildcats scored five more runs in the third to put the game out of reach.
Hillsboro’s lone run came in the fourth inning, when Hughbanks singled with one out and scored on a double by Moore.
Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to close its regular season Tuesday with a pair of games at home against Halstead.
The Trojans are off until May 16, when regional tournament play begins at Southeast of Saline. Joining Hillsboro and Southeast in the field are Beloit, Halstead and Lyons.
The Warriors were scheduled to take on Smoky Valley at home on Tuesday. Because of the partnership between Marion-Florence and Peabody-Burns, the combined enrollment of the two schools puts the Warriors in a Class 4A regional at Council Grove starting on Monday.
Joining the Warriors in the field are Abilene/Solomon, Santa Fe Trail, Chapman, Council Grove, Smoky Valley, Perry-LeCompton and Topeka-Hayden.