ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Coming in with confidence as high as an elephant’s eye and a record of 5-1, Hillsboro American Legion Post 366 swept a pair of games from Hesston Thursday night at Memorial Field, 14-2 and 8-2.
“The boys were very aggressive at the plate and we jumped on them early,” coach Lyman Adams said. “We just kept on swinging the bats well.”
Hillsboro wasted no time jumping on the visitors, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning.
After Aaron Stepanek was hit by a pitch and Chad Hughbanks walked, Justin Moore continued his torrid hitting streak with a run-scoring double. Adam Scheele followed with an RBI single.
The game was virtually decided in the bottom of the second when Post 366 sent 13 batters to the plate and scored 10 times.
Travis Riesen and Alfonse Klenda each drove in two runs with doubles while Stepanek, Clayton Garnica, Hughbanks, Moore and Jake Liles and two each drove in one.
Trailing 12-0, Hesston managed a pair of runs in the top of the third, aided by a two-out error by Hillsboro.
But Post 366 managed to answered with two runs in the bottom of the third when Hughbanks blasted a pitch over the Silver Snake in left field- Hillsboro’s version of the Green Monster.
The two-run shot staked Post 366 to a 14-2 lead, which was more than enough for starting pitcher Clayton Garnica, who got relief help from Daniel Jost. The pair combined to allow Hesston only two hits.
“Both kids threw the ball very well,” Adams said.
Riesen got the start and the win in Game 2, allowing only two hits in four innings while striking out six.
Hillsboro took a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning when Hughbanks singled and Moore walked ahead of a run-scoring double by Scheele.
Riesen helped his own cause one batter later when he drove Moore home with a single.
The lead moved to 3-0 in the second inning when Tyler Goldsby, on break from his duties in the U.S. Army, singled and eventually scored on a Hesston error.
“Probably the highlight of the evening was having Tyler Goldsby play with us,” Adams said. “He had some rustiness, but fit right in with the boys and the camaraderie of the team.
“They sure enjoyed having Tyler play with them so hopefully he’ll be able to fit a few more games into his schedule.”
Hesston sliced the lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning on a walk and a double, but Hillsboro responded with a run in the bottom of the inning on a one-out double by Lucas Hamm double and a run-scoring single by Goldsby.
In the top of the fifth, Hesston added a run off Liles, who had relieved Riesen, on a walk and a force out.
But Hillsboro scored three times in the fifth inning when Mitchell Koop singled, Stepanek and Garnica walked and Hamm blistered a two-run single for a 7-2 lead.
Hillsboro added a final run in the sixth when Alex Nuss singled and scored on a Jost single.
Hillsboro managed 12 hits while allowing Hesston five as Post 366 improved to 7-1.
“It sure beats the 0-6 or 1-9 start we had last year,” Adams said. “The boys played very well defensively, and the nice thing about both games was that we had most of our players there so we could try different combinations.
“The boys are adding to the confidence they earned in high school this spring,” he added. “The whole group is having fun.”
Coming-Post 366 is scheduled to travel to Lindsborg on Tuesday before hosting Lyons at Memorial Field on Thursday.
Games on both nights will begin at 6 p.m.