Late rally ends Trojan season

Jordan Faul fires a pitch during the early innings against Inman. The Trojans led 7-3 when he left the game in the sixth inning.
Jordan Faul fires a pitch during the early innings against Inman. The Trojans led 7-3 when he left the game in the sixth inning.
If the outcome of a game was always predictable, sports wouldn?t be as exciting when things go unexpectedly well?or as devastating when things go unexpectedly wrong.

Unfortunately, things went unexpectedly wrong for the Hillsboro baseball team at the worst possible time.

Leading Inman 7-3, and needing a mere three outs to advance to the Class 2-1A regional championship game last Tuesday, the strike zone turned into the Twi?light Zone for Trojan pitchers.

Five walks and a hit batter?plus the team?s only fielding error of the day?conspired to turn victory into the agony of an 8-7 season-ending defeat.

?The bottom line is, the first order of defense is to throw strikes, and we didn?t do that,? coach Doug Dick said.

Seeds of debacle were planted almost from the start. Senior Jordan Faul, coming off brilliant pitching performances in his last two starts, wasn?t as sharp against Inman.

?He walked a few guys and was getting behind in the pitch count, but the bottom line was his pitch count total was up,? Dick said.

?Already in that sixth inning, he was at 110 (pitches) maybe. He was tired, and it was hot. I could just tell he was having a hard time with his control.?

After Faul issued his fifth walk of the game with one out in the sixth, Dick brought in sophomore Dylan Nelson, who ended the inning when a fly out turned into a double play.

Nelson began the fateful seventh with a walk, but then got two outs on a fielder?s choice and a strikeout.

With one out to go, Nelson walked Inman?s Blayne Konrade, then hit Wyatt Regehr with a pitch to load the bases.

Senior Cody Delk came in from shortstop to relieve Nelson, but momentum was slipping away. The first batter reached on an error, then Delk walked the next two.

With the score at 7-6 and the bases loaded again, Trojan ace Austin Cross, who was penciled in to start the championship game, came in. No. 7 hitter Greyson Wood managed a ground-ball, two-run single to right.

Cross retired the next batter, but by then five Teu?tons had crossed the plate.

The Trojans still had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh. Delk managed a base hit with two outs, but the season ended when the next batter flied out.

Dick said a few more timely hits could have negated Inman?s late rally.

?Over the course of the game, we left a lot of runners on base,? he said. ?We had 14 hits and only scored seven runs.?

The Trojans left a base runner stranded on third in four of the first six innings.

Lead-off hitter Micah Allen led Hillsboro?s attack with three hits in four at-bats, including a double and two runs batted in. Jakob Han?schu went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Cross and Justus Hilliard also contributed two hits.

Having no way of knowing how events would unfold in the seventh, Dick said he had no regrets about following the game plan he and assistant coach Adam McCormick had laid out prior to the tournament.

?I don?t know?you expect kids to be able to battle at that point and come through for you,? Dick said. ?It?s hard to go home knowing we were?at least I thought we were?the best team in the regional. That?s the hardest thing to swallow.

?We should have been the best team there, and just didn?t prove it.?

Reflecting on the season, Dick praised the contributions of his two seniors, Delk and Faul.

?We had guys who really performed well for us in Cody and Jordan,? he said. ?To send them off this way just hurts. They deserved better for how they competed as seniors.?

The Trojans ended the season with a 13-6 record and thoughts of what might have been.

?I think we had a great season, but it becomes just a good season when you go home early,? Dick said.