Tuscarawas Central Catholic has been a feisty bunch this year for the Hiland baseball team. It’s been a somewhat challenging season for the Saints, with a number of freshman playing and a very short bench. In their first meeting, the Saints made things interesting against the Hawks, before falling late 8-4.
Tuesday at Hiland would be no different, other than for most of the night it looked as if TCC would hang the first league loss in 40-odd games on Hiland, but the Hawks pulled out a 4-3 victory in nine innings to keep their streak alive.
The Saints got on the board early against Hiland starter Braden Mast. Beau Beamer led off the game with a single and was sacrificed to second. A walk to Dean Green put two on before Austin Dick’s two-out single to center drove in their first run. The throw to the plate was cut off, but the relay to third went wide, and the ensuing throw home was bounced in and TCC owned an early 2-0 lead.
With Ty Columbo on the mound for the TCC, the Hiland bats were never able to gain any traction off the lanky right-hander. Chris Kline led off with a walk and stole second, but three quick outs got the Saints out of trouble and Hiland never really threatened through the first three.
Meanwhile, Mast had really settled in, facing the minimum through the next four innings as he and the Hiland faithful awaited the slumbering bats to come alive.
In the bottom of the fourth, they finally broke through.
A Mitch Massaro walk got things rolling, and Tyson Gingerich dropped down a beauty of a bunt to get two on with nobody out. Mast advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt with the hopes of Kobe Miller delivering a hit to tie the game.
Deliver he did.
Miller opened up and yanked a blast deep to right field for a three-run homer that gave Hiland a 3-2 lead, and with Mast in a groove on the mound it looked like if they could just plate another run or two they could put it away.
But it was not to be.
The Hiland sticks remained quiet against Columbo, and the Saints finally got to Mast in the sixth. After a pop up retired Beamer, AJ Henry walked and was picked off first on a missed bunt attempt by Green. With two outs things looked good for Hiland, but Green then singled up the middle, and the inning took on an oddly suitable feel for the way things had gone all night for the Hawks.
With two outs, a ground ball was mishandled by Kline and a slow bouncer with a mind of its own ricocheted off of Mast to load the bases. Having had two opportunities to escape the inning unscathed, Mast was unable to get out of it now and walked Braden Culler to force in the tying run before getting a strikeout to avoid further damage.
Columbo would retire the side in order the next three innings.
Meanwhile, Bryan Yoder came on for the Hawks in the seventh and twirled three fine innings of his own, holding the Saints hitless over three innings of work while striking out three and walking two.
It would be good enough.
Gingerich led off the bottom of the ninth with a shot up the middle for a single and was sacrificed to second by Cameron Miller. A Kobe Miller fly ball to fairly deep center moved Gingerich to third and set up a very anti-climactic win for Hiland when Andy Miller’s bouncer to third was fielded cleanly and air mailed over the first baseman’s head to end the game.
“I’m disgusted,” said Hiland head coach Tom Gibson of his team’s less-than-stellar approach to the game. “We lacked effort and we lacked focus.”
With tournaments around the corner, it’s not the kind of showing any coach wants to see out of his squad.
“If we don’t step it up, we are in trouble,” Gibson reasoned.
As for the nuts and bolts of the game, Hiland outhit TCC seven to four, with Gingerich delivering a pair of singles and Kline a single and a double. Austin Dick had two hits for TCC.
On the mound, Yoder got the win in relief for the Hawks, while Columbo suffered a tough loss, going the distance and giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits while walking three and striking out three. Mast also had a strong outing, after suffering through a rough first inning, going six innings and surrendering three runs, only one earned, on four hits while walking three and striking out six.
Hiland moves to 19-2 on the year and is scheduled to travel to Malvern to continue IVC play on Wednesday.