After a long-distance loss at Pratt on Monday, the Hillsboro Trojans baseball team rebounded the next day with a sweep of Smoky Valley to complete the regular season in Lindsborg.
In Luke Moore’s second year as the Hillsboro head coach, he and the Trojans turned a 5-15 record in 2017 into an 11-9 record in 2018.
SMOKY VALLEY— Dynamic pitching supported by timely hitting was key for the Trojans’ 10-0, 9-3 sweep at Lindsborg on Tuesday.
In the opener, Jack Parks threw a six-inning, one-hit shutout to lead Hillsboro to a run-rule victory.
“Jack was awesome in Game 1,” coach Luke Moore said. “He has improved so much this year and has been huge for us. He has embraced his role as the ace of this staff and that is great to see.”
After two scoreless innings for both teams, Brooks Gardner changed the tone in the third inning with a three-run home run to left field. For the game, Gardner went 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
“Brooks was awesome in Game 1 at the plate and in the field,” Moore said. “He has tremendous bat speed and it was great to see him play so well. Game 1 was one of our best games we’ve played this year.”
The Trojans took control of the game with five additional runs in the fourth inning. Gardner, Jacob Funk and Parks all contributed RBI hits in the surge. Hillsboro added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to complete the 10-0 victory.
Game 2 followed a similar pattern to the opener. As before, neither team scored in the first two innings; and again, the third inning proved to be the game changer as Hillsboro launched a four-run burst.
With one out, Chance Elliott struck out but made it to first base on a dropped third strike. Kleiner singled ahead of a Potucek two-RBI double that turned a four-run fourth inning into a 7-1 lead.
With Kaden Kleiner taking the hill, the Vikings rallied for two runs in the home half of the inning—but they would score no more. The Trojans added two runs in the seventh on walks to Hanschu and Funk and singles by Parks and Roberts.
That proved to be more than enough offense for Kleiner, who allowed three earned runs over six innings with four strikeouts and one walk. Hanschu came on in relief to pitch a scoreless seventh inning to secure the win.
“Kaden had a great start, and it was awesome to see him have a quality start—which we have been needing out of him this year,” Moore said.
“Jorge did a great job in the seventh inning as well,” he added. “He has really embraced his role as a closer and has done great.”
Hillsboro recorded 10 hits, led by Jack Parks, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Potucek and Gardner each contributed two hits.
“It was exciting to see our guys make great plays in the field,” Moore added. “Chance had a great diving catch in Game 2 and Caleb had a great play in Game 1.”
PRATT—Hillsboro’s marathon road trip to Pratt on Monday may have been the difference in the game.
The home team scored a run in the first inning, then added three more in the fourth inning against pitcher Caleb Potucek.
Meanwhile, facing a committee of Pratt pitchers, the Trojans didn’t achieve a base hit until Brooks Gardner singled with one out in the sixth inning. Kleiner scored on the hit after reaching base on a Pratt error.
In the seventh, Jack Parks walked and Hunter Hein followed with a single. Chance Elliott singled to chase both runners home and narrow the lead to 4-3.
Potucek absorbed the pitching loss, allowing seven hits and four runs over four innings, while striking out three.
Coming—Hillsboro, seeded No. 4 in its Class 2-1A regional, was to open play Monday with a first-round game at home against Minneapolis, the No. 5 seed.
All remaining games will be played at Lyons. If the Trojans defeated Minneapolis, Hillsboro will likely face Marion, the No. 1 seed with an 18-2 record.
“I love the momentum we’re having going into regionals,” said Trojan coach Luke Moore. “I’m proud of my guys and the regular season they have put together.”
Hillsboro moved into the semifinals Monday with a 12-0 win over Minneapolis in the first round of the Class 3A regional tournament played at Hillsboro’s Memorial Field. With the win, the Trojans will take a 12-9 record into the semifinal game against No. 1 seeded Marion (18-2) scheduled for 3 p.m. May 15 at Lyons.