Between the raindrops, the Hillsboro Hawks have split a pair of games this week. The team lost two leads against Webster Groves at home on Monday and lost 9-6. But on Wednesday, the Hawks rebounded to win a critical conference game on the road at Windsor, 1-0. Hillsboro is now 9-4 on the season, 2-0 in conference play.
Against Webster Groves, head coach Kevin Lucas said his team just didn’t seem ready to play. “This game was a game that we just kind of went through the motions,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of energy, but we still had a chance to win it until things fell apart in the sixth. Our pitching struggled with throwing strikes, and I am to blame for that because I just didn’t get the pitchers the bullpen work needed to stay sharp. With all the rainouts and reschedules, that is usually the one thing I forget about. Hopefully, we can start to get some games in and get back in a groove leading up to districts.”
Against the Statesmen, Hillsboro led 2-0 after three innings. Christian Hancock had an RBI triple in the first, while Hayden Voyles drove in a run with a base hit in the third. Michael Brewer started on the hill for the Hawks, and went three and two thirds innings. He gave up a run in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. He struck out eight, but struggled with his control, walking five.
Webster Groves would get a run to tie it in the fifth, but Hillsboro responded with four runs in the home half of the fifth. Isack Hamilton drove in a run with a base hit, and Brewer scored on an error. Garrett Pinkley followed with a single that scored two runs and gave Hillsboro a pretty comfortable 6-2 lead. But the offense would stall in the final two innings, while the Statesmen scored seven runs in the sixth to steal the game from the home team on senior night. In that inning, the visitors used three hits, the big blow a triple that scored three, one error, a sacrifice fly, and four walks off pitchers Brendan McLaughlin and Grant Beck. Logan Warren finished the seventh inning for Hillsboro.
“We have multiple games this week, so mentally, we just need to put this game behind us and focus on tomorrow,” Pinkley pointed out. The offense did muster eight hits led by Hancock’s three-for-three performance. Warren, Brewer (double), Voyles, Hamilton, and Pinkley had the other hits for the Hawks.
Wednesday’s game at Windsor was aided by their turf field and sunny skies. a welcomed respite from the recent gloomy weather. And both pitchers were on their games. Hancock was lights out for Hillsboro, giving up only two hits, and working around four walks and two errors. He stranded eight Owls on the bases, and struck out 11. The only problem was, the Hawks weren’t doing much at the plate either. For the game, they stranded just three runners, struck out 13 times, and only benefitted from one walk. Windsor did commit one error.
There would prove to be one crack that a team could manipulate to their advantage. It came in the third inning, and the Hawks took it. With one out, Dayton Hoelter singled to left, and then moved all the way to third as the throw into the infield was misplayed. The Owls got a strikeout for the second out, and in stepped lead off hitter, Mark Moore. He took a ball, and then fouled off the next pitch. He looked at strike two, and then fouled off two more pitches. The sixth pitch was ball two, and Moore kept grinding. “Hartmann (Windsor’s pitcher) was dealing today, so I was trying to fight off pitches to get something I wanted,” Moore explained. “I got one high and outside, and I just took it to right center.” Hoelter scored easily, Moore cruised into second base with a run scoring double, and that would be the only time either team would cross home plate.
“Mark’s double was big in so many ways, being with two strikes and two outs, the way he battled until he got a pitch he could hit,” Lucas said. There would be only one more Hillsboro hit the rest of the way. Ironically, Moore would get that one leading off the sixth with a base hit.
But Hancock just wouldn’t give in to the home team. That one run was going to be enough. “Christian did an awesome job,” said Lucas. “He was able to mix things up and hit his spots. It was a great pitcher’s dual, and we were able to get the one run to get the win.”
The Hawks are scheduled to play at Jackson today, at Festus tomorrow, and at home against Perryville on Monday. We’ll see what Mother Nature has to say about that.