It’s tournament time and the Garaway Pirates baseball team has been peaking at the right time, winning its first two tournament games, and they are on a late-season roll. So, the chances were good that their season-ending clash with Hiland would be a battle.
Neither squad played their best, but it was a battle nonetheless, as Hiland led early, fell behind, and rallied late to take down the Pirates 9-5 in a contest between two teams with their eyes more focused on the tournament trail.
“We knew coming in that we weren’t going to show our hand pitching-wise,” said Garaway head coach Justin Elmore. “That’s not a knock on the guys we threw. We trust those guys, and they didn’t do a bad job, we just gave up a few too many free bases at times and Hiland hit the ball in key situations.”
Neither Garaway’s Austin Miller nor Hiland’s Eric Mullet saw the mound on Thursday, but in the early portion of the game, the Hawks’ Braden Mast and Pirates’ Quinn Miller were doing a nice job of effectively keeping their teams in the ballgame.
Hiland broke through in the top of the second, when Mullet’s leadoff double led to the first run of the game on Derek Miller’s sharp single to make it 1-0. While the Hawks were busy leaving five men in scoring position over the first three innings, Mast was working his way through the Garaway lineup with minimal issues.
After getting through the first two innings unscathed, Mast got the first two outs in the third, when an infield error extended the inning before he plunked Quinn Miller and Dallas Foster to load the bases before another error allowed two runs to score for a 2-1 Pirates lead.
The Hawks had four errors on the night and the Pirates took full advantage, with only two of their five runs being earned.
“We didn’t play our best baseball obviously,” said Hiland head coach Tom Gibson. “We made too many throwing errors, we didn’t pitch as well as we have in the past…I just felt like we could’ve played better. But we won, I’ll give them that.”
And win they did.
After a Mast double and Kobe Miller single tied it at 2-2 in the top of the fourth. Hiland threatened to take the lead on a two-out Chris Kline single but Micah Van Fossen gunned Miller at the plate with a perfect strike from center.
Garaway took the lead right back off Hiland reliever Derek Miller in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Miller hit Tanner Pettite, who scored on a Van Fossen gapper to deep left, and he trotted home on a single by Trey Hershberger to put the Pirates in command 4-2 heading into the fifth.
But the resilient Hawks bounced right back, when Tyson Gingerich walked and scored when Bryan Yoder jerked a long double down the left field line. Yoder scored to tie the game at four on a fielder’s choice when the relay to first on an attempted double play was too late to get the speedy Andy Miller at first.
Hiland built on its lead and threatened to blow the game wide open in the sixth, when Derek Miller and Chris Kline singled, followed by another Gingerich walk to load the bases off of Garaway reliever Derek Briggs. Miller just beat the throw to the plate on a Yoder swinging bunt and a Mitch Massaro produced a sac fly to left, before a wild pitch scored Gingerich to give the Hawks a 7-4 lead.
But the Pirates wouldn’t quit.
Singles by Van Fossen and Austin Miller got a pair on and Quinn Miller’s single brought Garaway back to within two.
But a huge two-out Gingerich single in the seventh gave Hiland a 9-5 cushion and Massaro closed out the game to give the Hawks the win and their third consecutive undefeated season in IVC play. It was their 50th consecutive league win.
I VARSITY BASEBALL I Gingerich dumps a single to left with 2 down for 2 huge runs in the 7th. 9-5 Hawks lead B7. pic.twitter.com/ezmMaJvBP2
— HolmesCountyTicket (@hcticket) May 12, 2016
Winning sixteen games in a row to sweep a single season is a feat in itself, but the Hawks have done it three years running. Does it matter to Gibson?
“Sure, it matters,” he said. “It has to if you’re a competitor. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t be out here.” He noted that the streak has set the tone for incoming and current players, setting a precedent from year to year.
“I told the guys, we’re so much better than we’ve played. We can’t do this in the tournament. But I always look for ways to improve. We played a nice game and we won,” Gibson said.
Elmore was proud of the way his team battled back against a team like Hiland.
“This was not, by any means, a step back for us,” he said. “I was very happy we had a game like this in between tournament games. It was very good for us. We just need to make sure we’re a little bit better if we get an opportunity the next time.”
The schools could meet again next week. Elmore and the Pirates face Coshocton in the Division III District semi-final Monday, May 16 at West Holmes High School. Hiland will play Martins Ferry on Monday at Muskingum College at 5:00 p.m. If both squads win they face each other again on Wednesday, May 18.
Derek Miller got the win in relief for Hiland, while Garaway reliever Derek Briggs was saddled with the loss.
Kline had four hits for the Hawks, with Gingerich and Derek Miller each providing two. Gingerich was on base four times, scoring twice and driving in two. Austin Miller, Quinn Miller and BJ Schwartz each had two hits apiece for the Pirates.