What do you get when you pit two bitter rivals against each other in a home-and-home double header? Apparently a little bit of everything.
The fans of the Festus Tigers and Hillsboro Hawks certainly got their money’s worth on Friday, as these two surging teams faced off in a pair of games that were so close if it were a high school dance the chaperone would have stepped in and separated them to leave some room for Jesus.
Colorful analogies aside, both games were back-and-forth affairs with lead changes galore and razor thin margins of victory. The Tigers won the matinee as the home team 8-7 in 10 innings, and then the Hawks came right back and took their home match 7-6 in the finale.
In the opening game, Hillsboro jumped out on top in the first inning as Gavin Hite ripped a single to right that plated a pair of runs for a quick 2-0 lead. That score would hold up until the fifth inning, as the pitchers for both teams really settled in.
Festus would respond though, breaking through in the bottom of the fifth with a booming double to center by Brady Nolen to put the Tigers on the board. Then Jeremiah Cunningham singled to center to bring Nolen around to score and tie the game. Festus then grabbed their first lead in the sixth when Jackson Gross took a 2-1 pitch and deposited the offering over the right field fence for a two-run bomb. That put Festus up 4-2.
The Hawks came right back in the 7th though and kept the game alive with a double from Jaxin Patterson. He came up with runners on first and second and sent them both streaking home on a scorcher to center. Patterson was gunned down at third to end the inning, but his line shot tied the game at 4-4.
Now in extra innings, both teams were able to make dents in the 8th. Hillsboro took advantage of an error and got a big double from Keynen Drury that drove in a pair to take a 7-4 lead. Festus responded in kind with three of their own when Cunningham stepped up with two on and two out and crushed a three-run homer to left to tie the game up once again.
The ninth was scoreless, and the Tigers managed to keep the Hawks off the board in the top of the 10th, which set the stage for Tyler Bizzle. He stepped in with two outs and runners on 1st and 2nd, turned on an 0-2 pitch and singled to bring home the winning run from 2nd. That gave the Tigers an 8-7, 10-inning, walk-off victory and extended their winning streak to six games.
Cunningham was the big bat for the Tigers, going 3-for-5 with four RBI, while Nolen and Wyatt Huskey each had two hits in the game as well. Nate Moore got the start and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks while fanning four. Brayden Montgomery got the win in relief, tossing 3.1 innings of three-run ball while walking three and striking out three.
Drury had a big day for the Hawks with a 3-for-5 effort that included a pair of RBI, and he also got the start on the bump, throwing 5.2 innings. He allowed four runs on five hits and a walk. Patterson had a nice effort as well, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI.
The finale of the double header featured Hillsboro as the home team, but the Hawks got off to a slow start. Festus jumped out early after Mason Schirmer ripped an RBI single in the top of the first to put the Tigers up 1-0.
Then, much like last game, the pitching took over for a stretch, as both teams failed to score until the fifth inning. It was Festus again, adding to their lead thanks to Hayden Bates, who came up with two runners on and sat on a 1-0 pitch that he smoked over the left field fence for a three-run homer.
That made it 4-0 Tigers, but the Hawks suddenly woke up on offense in the bottom of the 6th and changed the complexity of the entire game. They took advantage of back-to-back Festus errors and erupted for six runs. Patterson drove in one with a fielder’s choice, Zack Reynolds singled in another, Jaxon Day drove in two with a base-hit to right and, finally, Drury plated two more with a stinging double to left. Suddenly it was 6-4 and Hillsboro had their first lead.
Festus wasn’t done though. They needed two runs in the top of the 7th to keep the game alive, and Bates came through again with an RBI single to get them within one. A walk loaded the bases and then a passed ball sent Nolen dashing home from third to tie it up. The Tigers had life.
However, this time it was Hillsboro’s turn to walk it off. The first two batters in the bottom of the 7th reached base and Patterson came up with a chance to win it. In an ironic twist of fate, after looking at one pitch, the ball got away from the catcher and Cohen Linderer, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, came all the way around to score from second, and the Hawks got their revenge.
Dominic Sutton was the hit-leader for the Hawks in this one, going 3-for-4 and he also got the start, pitching 4.2 innings of four-run ball. Hite got the win after firing 2.1 innings in relief. Day and Drury provided most of the offense with two RBI each and Reynolds and Patterson each drove in a run.
Bates was the masher for the Tigers, going 2-for-4 with four RBI and had the big three-run homer. Schirmer had the only other RBI for Festus and also got the start in this one. He was excellent on the mound despite allowing six runs. Costly defensive miscues caused all six runs to be unearned, and he struck out 11 against just four hits and a pair of walks.
Both of these teams are playing their best baseball of the season, and appear to be incredibly evenly matched. You couldn’t ask for much more in a short series between crosstown rivals, and the parity between these two powerful programs is almost stifling.
Next up for both clubs; Festus will take on Gateway Legacy on Monday and Hillsboro will host Cape Central on Wednesday.