Seven was not a lucky number for the Hillsboro baseball team in its season-opening doubleheader against Nickerson March 27 at Memorial Field.
The visiting Panthers scored seven runs in both games and went on to defeat the Trojans 7-4 and 7-3.
In Game 1, the Panthers jumped on Hillsboro starter Jorge Hanschu (0-1) for five runs in the first inning. Four walks, three singles and a double accounted for the five-run lead.
The Trojan countered with three runs in the bottom of the inning on a single by Kaden Kleiner, a one-out double by Brooks Gardner and a single by Hanschu.
Jack Parks took the mound for the second inning and limited the Panthers to two runs in the fourth inning off a pair of doubles and two singles for a 7-3 lead.
Hillsboro managed a fourth run in the seventh inning on a double by Kleiner, a single by Caleb Potucek and a Panther error.
Jon Huggard came in to relieve Panther starter Tanner Schrag and got the final two outs.
Game 2 turned into a scoreless pitching duel between Hillsboro Kaden Kleiner and Nickerson’s Carson Cornelius.
In the top of the fifth, Nickerson scored the first run of the game, but Hillsboro bounced back with two runs in the bottom half.
Chance Elliott walked to open the inning and Landon Roberts followed with a single. After a fielder’s choice on a ball hit by Kleiner, Potucek and Jacob Funk both singled to score Elliott and Kleiner.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, Nickerson opened the scoring gate in the top of the sixth inning. Nickerson managed four runs and a 5-2 lead against the pitching combination of Kleiner (0-1) and Potucek.
Hillsboro scored one final run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I liked that we battled and scored a run in the bottom of the seventh,” coach Luke Moore said. “That is growth right there that we didn’t quit.
“We played fairly well, but made some crucial errors,” he added. “We walked nine guys and left 10 or more guys on base. We just didn’t do what was needed to win.”
Moore said his team hit the ball fairly well and overall played “pretty good” defense.
He also was pleased with his teams pitching.
“Kaden Kleiner and Jack Parks were awesome on the mound,” Moore said. “Jack came in relief in Game 1 and pitched really well. Kaden needs to stop getting in three-ball counts, which would reduce his pitch count and allow him to pitch longer.”
Moore said he challenged his team to change its mindset from Mediocrity to greatness.
“We played with one of the best teams in 4A, but that isn’t enough.” Moore said. “We have to change our mentality to be great and not just settle for being OK or average. We get a week to retool some things and then have three straight tough doubleheaders that will reveal a lot.”
Coming—Hillsboro is scheduled to return to action April 3 when Larned comes to town with a 4 p.m. start at Memorial Field. The Trojans travel to Hoisington Friday.