Trojans come up just short of winning league title

Hillsboro first baseman Austin Cross catches a pick-off throw from pitcher Jordan Faul during the first game of last Tuesday?s doubleheader with Lyons. Base runner Ryan McClure got safely back to first base, and later stole second base. Hillsboro won,? 2-1.
Hillsboro first baseman Austin Cross catches a pick-off throw from pitcher Jordan Faul during the first game of last Tuesday?s doubleheader with Lyons. Base runner Ryan McClure got safely back to first base, and later stole second base. Hillsboro won,? 2-1.
The Hillsboro baseball team came oh so close to pulling a Central Kansas League championship out of the fire on the last day of the regular season.

The Trojans came in to last Tuesday?s doubleheader one game behind Lyons in the title chase, and needed a sweep to grab the championship.

The drama intensified when the Trojans won the opener, 2-1, scoring a walk-off run in the bottom of the seventh to move into a tie with the visitors.

When the Trojans grabbed a 3-1 lead after the opening inning of Game 2, fans could almost smell the title. But Lyons rallied for four runs over the final four innings to grab a 5-3 victory and the CKL championship.

?We competed well,? coach Doug Dick said. ?We had some opportunities to do some things in the second game, but overall I?m pleased more than anything with the defensive effort and pitching effort.?

Both were showcased in the opener, when the Trojans stifled Lyons with almost error-free defense and second consecutive outstanding pitching performance from Jordan Faul (2-1).

The senior, who shut out Haven a week earlier, allowed Lyons only one hit and no earned runs in the complete-game victory.

?He was hitting spots, he was able to throw three different pitches for strikes, and that helped,? Dick said. ?He was very effective. He mixed up speeds very well and kept them off balance. He got them to hit a lot of dinker miss-hits.?

In the end, Faul was a hero on offense, too. With the score deadlocked at 1-1 entering the home half of the seventh, Hillsboro surrendered two quick outs.

But Justus Hilliard, batting in the nine hole, singled to keep hope alive. Micah Allen then drew a walk and Cody Delk followed with a single to load the bases.

Faul then hit a hard grounder off the leg of the Lyons pitcher, enabling Hilliard to cross the plate with the winning run.

In the second game, the Lions got a first-inning run against Hillsboro starter Jakob Hanschu. But in the home half of the inning, the Trojans parlayed a walk and two Lyons errors?one on a double hit by Austin Cross?into three runs.

In the fourth, Lyons touched Hanschu for two runs to tie the game, aided by a rare Hillsboro error.

Cody Delk came in to relieve Hanschu in the fifth. He limited the Lions to single runs in the fifth and seventh, but that was enough for the win.

Both teams finished the regular season with 13-5 records. Lyons is 11-3 in the CKL and Hillsboro 10-4.

Regionals?Weather permitting, Hillsboro?s post-season hopes were decided Tuesday at Galva. The Trojans, seeded second, earned a first-round bye for Monday and were to play either No. 3 Inman or No. 5 Canton-Galva in the semifinals Tuesday afternoon.

A victory would have put the Trojans into the championship game against either No. 1 Little River (15-5), who split a doubleheader with Hillsboro to open the season, No. 4 Moundridge (7-13) or No. 5 Chase County (6-12).

Dick said his team is ready for the next level, particularly in the critical area of pitching.

?I?m seeing good stuff out of all of our pitchers now, and that?s where we need to be going into post-season,? he said. ?I?m feeling confident with anybody I put out there. I feel like they can do the job.?

As for the offense, Dick said, ?One thing I?ve noticed about our lineup as the year?s progressed, it?s become stronger top to bottom. You never know where our runs and our base runners are going to come from. That?s a good thing to see right now.?

On the line for all six teams in the regional is a berth in the Class 2-1A state tournament in Great Bend, May 29-30.

For the results of Tues?day?s games, go to hillsborofreepress.com.