The Hillsboro Hawks Varsity Baseball team traveled to Festus on Thursday April 22nd for the first of two games against their arch rivals. Eli Epley was on the mound for Hillsboro and despite a six inning, six strikeout performance, the Tigers were able to score seven runs on seven hits to defeat Hillsboro 7-1.
Hillsboro had runners in scoring position all afternoon, but all but one were stranded, and they were only able to manage one run in the seven-inning affair. Head Coach Kevin Lucas praised the pitching on both sides, saying “We weren’t able to make adjustments at the plate against a very good pitcher. We especially have to get better with two strikes. I thought Epley did a pretty good job, they just happened to hit him.”
The Hawks began the game capitalizing on the Tigers’ mistakes. Right Fielder Gabe King drew a walk and then reached second on a groundout hit by Connor Jenkins, but he would be left on base. Festus then got off to an early lead in the bottom of the first when the leadoff hitter laced a double down the left field line. He reached third on a dropped third strike putout, and went on to score on a single. The first inning ended 1-0 in favor of Festus.
Hillsboro was fanned in order in the top of the second, but not to be outdone, Epley efficiently struck out four in a row in the bottom of the inning, with the first batter reaching base on a dropped third strike. Catcher Jase Stewart led off the third with a single up the middle and stole second, but he was also left stranded. The Tigers broke the game open in the bottom frame, starting with a leadoff walk. Two singles, a fielders choice and a double left the score at 4-0 when the dust settled.
Austin Romaine scored the lone Hawks run in the top of the fourth inning. He dropped a single into shallow center field and was moved over when Andrew Chaves was hit by a pitch. Left Fielder Cruz Valencia walked to load up the bases and Romaine scored on a passed ball. That is where the rally and the scoring ended for Hillsboro, and after setting down the Tigers in order, the score was 4-1
Festus scored three more runs in the fifth inning, two of which reached base on an error and a hit by pitch, but three singles was all it took to bring them home, leaving the final score at 7-1. Noah Shuman was in scoring position in the sixth inning after a walk and a wild pitch, but he was not able to be brought in.
Romaine had seven balls hit his way, and fielded all of them cleanly. Shuman had six and was able to put away three on his own, and assist on three others.
When asked what adjustments his team needs to make in the second game of the set, Valencia replied, “The game yesterday was a minor setback, we just need to put together overall better at bats, they just simply hit better than us. Today we just need to swing at more close strikes, and hit the ball on a line more than in the air.”
“[I think] the biggest adjustment our team is going to make is our determination,” said Stewart. “Yesterday we didn’t play to our fullest potential and today the entire team is ready to turn it up a notch to get the win.”
Hillsboro hosts the Tigers in the second game of the Highway A rivalry on Friday April 23rd at 4:30pm, then hosts a double header against North County High school on Saturday April 24th.