Trojans lose leads late at Lindsborg

Austin Cross delivers a pitch during Game 1 of Hillsboro?s season-opening doubleheader with Smoky Valley Thursday in Lindsborg. The 6-foot-7 right-hander struck out eight batters in 32?3 innings, but the Trojans lost the game, 8-6. Backing up Cross at second base is Tyson Reimer. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

The Hillsboro baseball team let leads slip away in the late innings of both games, absorbing a pair of disappointing losses in the season opener Thurs?day at Lindsborg.

Smoky Valley overcame an early 4-0 deficit to prevail 8-6 in Game 1, then won Game 2, 12-11, after trailing 11-3 after 41?2 innings. The Vikings scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to win.

Relief pitching was a key factor in the sweep after Hillsboro?s starters left early due to high pitch counts. The five different relievers used during the twinbill gave up 14 of the Vikings? 18 runs.

Starters Austin Cross and Braden Vogt allowed two runs each, but neither lasted beyond four innings due to control issues.

In the opener, Cross struck out eight batters in 32?3 innings of work but also walked seven. Vogt completed four innings with five strikeouts and five walks.

?Both starting pitchers pitched decently,? coach Doug Dick said. ?The problem was the pitch count, which got very high quickly.

?I wanted to keep (both pitchers) under 80 pitches,? he added. ?The idea was to not make them go too far into the game. I was hoping we could rely on some (relief) pitchers to throw strikes and get through the game, but it didn?t work that way.?

Dick said both starting pitchers will be more consistent in the future.

?As their arms get in better condition and their bodies get in better condition, they?ll be able to go a little deeper and they?ll have a better ball-strike ratio,? he said.

Offensively, the Trojans got production from the top half of the order.

David Dick?s triple drove in Hillsboro?s fourth run in Game 1; the senior had five hits for the day. Cross and Vogt each finished 5-for-9 at the plate, including two doubles by Cross.

?The kids I expected to do well at the plate, did,? coach Dick said. ?But all the way through the lineup we were inconsistent, and we?re going to be that way. The bottom part of our lineup is not real strong yet. They?re young. Hopefully, they?ll keep getting better.?

Defensively, the Trojans committed only one error in the first game, but their five miscues in Game 2 were critical to the outcome as a couple of them opened the door to multiple Viking runs.

?We have a lot of areas that we can see improvement on,? coach Dick said. ?It?s just too bad we caused ourselves to make enough mistakes during the course of the game that it resulted in (losses).?

Coming?Hillsboro was scheduled to host Hoisington Tuesday, then will welcome Pratt to Memorial Field Tuesday, April 14. The doubleheader will begin at 4 p.m.

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