ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro came back from a first-game blowout and a 4-0 deficit in Game 2 to beat Nickerson 7-5 and salvage a split of its Thursday doubleheader in Nickerson.
After losing the opener 12-2 in a game that got away early, the Trojans found themselves trailing by four runs after the first two innings of Game 2.
A lead-off inside-the-park home run by Mace Krol in the opening inning, plus three Trojan errors in the second inning, were keys to the Panthers’ 4-0 lead.
The Trojans rallied in the top of the fourth with three runs. After Travis Riesen doubled to lead off and Justin Moore was hit by a pitch, Adam Scheele drove them both home with a double. He eventually scored on a ground out by Troy Frick.
Two innings later, the Trojans completed the comeback with a four-run surge. After Alex Nuss chased home one run on an error, Dustin Jost, Chad Hughbanks and Riesen chipped in consecutive run-scoring singles to put Hillsboro ahead 7-4.
Nickerson managed a run in the sixth on a single and a couple of fielder’s choices, and threatened more in the seventh.
Jost got a huge doubleplay early in the inning. Then, after giving up a pair of hits, nailed down the win by striking out the Panthers’ 5-hole hitter with runners on first and third.
Hughbanks and Riesen each had two hits and a run batted in to go with Scheele’s two RBIs to pace Hillsboro’s attack.
Scheele pitched well in his first game of the season after completing a disciplinary suspension. The senior left-hander gave up four runs on five hits in four innings, struck out three and did not walk a batter.
With three effective innings of relief work, Jost (1-0) earned the victory. The freshman allowed only one run on three hits. He struck out one and walked one.
The outcome of Game 1 was decided fairly early. The Panthers feasted off the generosity of starter Troy Frick (1-2) for six runs in the opening inning and were up 11-0 after three.
Frick faced 15 batters before being lifted with nobody out in the third. The right-hander was charged with eight runs, all earned. He gave up only two hits, but walked four batters and hit five.
Dustin Strunk and Daniel Berg combined to pitch the final two innings of the run-rule five-inning game.
Hillsboro scored its only runs in the second inning when Stepanek singled with two outs, Nuss reached on an error and Lucas Hamm chased them both home with a single.
“Defensively, we played a lot better,” coach Phil Oelke about the second-game victory. “Riesen played very well behind the plate, and threw out a couple of guys.
“We also played with a little more passion. They’re going to have to learn to do that every game or we’re going to have some trouble.”
“It was nice to bounce back (after Game 1),” Oelke added.
“They’re showing they can handle some adversity and their understanding of the game is coming around.”
Coming-The Trojans (4-4), who have already exceeded their win total from each of the past two seasons, were scheduled for two doubleheaders on the road this week. The Trojans were to take on Smoky Valley on Tuesday and Wichita Collegiate on Friday.