ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The American Legion Post 366 Babe Ruth baseball team kicked off its season Wednesday with a pair of losses at Peabody, 7-5 and 7-6.
“I was fairly satisfied-disappointed that we lost the games, but we had a lot of kids who hadn’t played high school baseball or were coming back from college and hadn’t swung the bats for quite a while,” manager Lyman Adams said.
“I was pleased that we were aggressive at the plate and were able to hit the ball even though we didn’t get much practice in beforehand.”
In the opener, Chad Hughbanks was the starting pitcher for Hillsboro while Aaron Burnett got the nod for Peabody.
Hillsboro jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Aaron Stepanek led off with a walk, which was followed by a Peabody error on a ball hit by Jared Fish.
Two outs later, with runners on second and third, Tyler Goldsby delivered a single up the middle to score both runners.
Peabody came back in the second inning on the strength of a Kenny Mayfield single, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a throwing error to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 2-1.
Hillsboro increased its advantage to 3-1 in the fourth when Clayton Garnica, Justin Moore and Goldsby all singled.
In the bottom of the inning, Peabody got a run handed to them. Brian Baker struck out but reached base on a passed ball. He then stole second base, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on another passed ball to slice the lead to 3-2.
Hillsboro answered with a pair of runs in the fifth as Derek Hamm reached on an error, Michael Bookless singled and Brett McIntosh singled to score Hamm. Stepanek grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Bookless scored to stake Hillsboro to a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Peabody’s Preston Williams doubled and then scored on a Burnett single to cut the lead to 5-3.
Two outs later, Ryan Gaines drove Burnett home with a fielder’s choice to make it 5-4.
After Hillsboro failed to score in the top of the sixth, Adams replaced Hughbanks with Fish.
“Chad threw the ball well and came out with the lead,” Adams said.
After Fish retired the first two hitters, Cody Weerts and Williams singled ahead of a Burnett double that brought Weerts home with the tying run.
Todd Woodruff followed with a single that scored Williams with what proved to be the winning run. Burnett eventually scored on a throwing error to account for the final 7-5 margin.
Fish (0-1) took the loss, allowing four hits while hitting one batter in one inning of work.
“I thought we were coming along well with two out and nobody on in the sixth inning,” Adams said. “But they hit some balls in the holes and rallied to beat us.”
Burnett picked up the win with a complete-game seven-hitter. He struck out five and walked one.
In Game 2, Garnica started for Hillsboro and Weerts for Peabody.
Peabody got its offense untracked early. Williams crushed his second double of the night and scored on a wild pitch. Woodruff drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on consecutive wild pitches to give Peabody a 2-0 lead after one inning.
In the second inning, Moore drew a lead-off walk, moved to second on a Garnica single, stole third and scored on a Bookless ground out to make the score 2-1.
Peabody countered with a pair of runs in the second as Micah Hilliard led off with an infield single, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch.
Josh Fistler drew a walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Weerts to make the score 4-1.
In the top of the third, Hillsboro scored a pair of runs when Stepanek led off with a walk, Fish reached on an error and Hughbanks singled. Goldsby then drove Stepanek home while Moore grounded out to chase home Hughbanks.
Garnica worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the third with no damage, taking the game to the top of the fifth with Peabody still holding a one-run lead.
In the fifth, Stepanek worked Weerts for a lead-off walk, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error before scoring on a Hughbanks grounder that was misplayed.
Hughbanks eventually scored on Hamm’s ground out to put Hillsboro on top 5-4.
Peabody came back to tie the score at 5 in the bottom of the fifth as Garnica issued four walks and a double in the inning.
After Weerts worked a 1-2-3 sixth, Peabody put the game away in the bottom of the inning. Woodruff singled and Gaines walked with one out. Woodruff scored the winning run on a Mayfield single while Gaines scored on a Baker ground out to put Peabody on top 7-5.
Hillsboro got consecutive singles from Stepanek, Fish and Hughbanks to cut the lead to 7-6 in the seventh, but a double-play ball off the bat of Goldsby ended the threat.
Garnica (0-1) absorbed the loss, allowing seven hits but also issuing nine walks. Hillsboro committed four errors.
“Clayton competed well,” Adams said. “He didn’t want to come out of the game, which is a good sign.”
Weerts got the complete-game win, allowing eight hits while striking out seven.
“Overall, I was fairly satisfied with how the boys played-defensively and offensively. It’s a learning curve for all of us,” Adams said.
Coming-Hillsboro (0-2) was scheduled to host Lyons on Tuesday, before playing host to Manhattan’s 17-year-old team at Memorial Field on Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m.