The Hillsboro freshman baseball team ended the season with a hard fought 4-3 loss in the championship game of the Windsor Tournament on Saturday. The Hawks finished with a fine 10-7 record, a nice accomplishment after starting the year with records of 0-2 and 2-4.
“We fought really hard and competed the entire game, but unfortunately came up short,” said freshman coach Joe Fehlker.
Hillsboro fell behind 4-0 after three innings, but fought and clawed its way back. In the fourth inning, Gavin Mahan reached on an error and would eventually score on an Andrew Brody single. The Hawks chipped away again in the fifth inning when Mahan grounded out, scoring Chase Frank who had walked.
In the seventh and potentially final inning, the Hawks made one last attempt to keep the game alive, trailing 4-2. Tyler Watson was hit by a pitch, and stole second. He advanced to third on a Mahan groundout. Junior Arnold then grounded out to the first baseman, scoring Watson, but Cruz Valencia was retired on a groundout to second, and the Hawks fell one run short.
Frank started on the mound and went three innings. Brody relieved him and threw three shutout innings. “Defensively, Watson made two really nice plays on pop-ups behind the plate,” Fehlker pointed out. “Brody also picked a runner off of first. We were pretty solid in the field, but the few mistakes we did make led to runs by Jackson. They are very good at capitalizing on other team’s errors.”
Fehlker noted that the team faced a formidable pitcher. “The starting pitcher for Jackson was very good. I thought we made some nice adjustments and did a good job of getting guys on base, especially as the game went on. We just couldn’t quite get the big hit we needed to knock in a few runs. I think all of our runs were scored on ground balls in the infield.”
As the season closes for the young squad, Coach Fehlker said he was very proud of the team and really enjoyed coaching them. “They had great attitudes, their attendance was outstanding, and they were able to improve as the year went on,” he said. “It took a few games for us to find our groove and figure out the best lineup and positions for everyone, but that is typical of freshman ball. They also had to deal with the normal stuff of a ninth grade team including rainouts, reschedules, last-minute location changes, practicing inside, practicing for a short amount of time, and having to share facilities with the JV and varsity. But through all of that, they showed great character and perseverance. We really got on a roll with our seven-game winning streak, and I always felt like we were in games. Even if we got down early, I knew they would find a way to battle back.”
Fehlker added, “Our pitchers did a great job of throwing strikes. In the field, this is one of the better defensive teams I have coached. We made almost all of the routine plays, and several of the ‘highlight reel’ plays as well. And at the plate, they took a good approach, ran the bases aggressively, and found ways to get runners in even if they weren’t getting hits.”
With the play of the freshman and JV teams this spring, it seems as if Hillsboro baseball is in good hands for years to come.