Solid hitting leads Hillman baseball past Onaway

HILLMAN-On Monday night, Hillman baseball coach Rick Firmin had some doubts about whether or not his team would hit the ball well in its season opener.

Fortunately, Firmin didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Hillman pounded out 15 hits and backed up its timely hitting with quality pitching to beat Onaway in its season opener, 9-2 and 7-4 at Hillman High School on Tuesday.

“I liked our approach at the plate. We’ve been stressing that quite a bit and trying to get more balls in play and not strike out as much,” Firmin said. “It was effective today and it showed on the scoreboard.”

Onaway struck first in the nightcap, scoring two runs in the first inning. Chris Cleaver had an RBI single to score Tommy Auger and later scored on a throwing error.

Auger also made an impressive defensive play in the first inning when he helped through out a runner at home with a throw from center field.

Hillman scored a run in each of the first two innings, but broke the game open its next two trips to the plate. Getting on base was never a problem for the Tigers, who left the bases loaded in the first two innings and left two on in the third inning.

The Tigers took the lead for good in the third inning, thanks in part to a two-run single from Gunnar Libby.

Libby had two hits in the game and came up big again in the fourth inning, hitting another two-run single to put Hillman ahead 7-3.

Onaway trailed 5-3 in the fourth inning, but missed an opportunity to close the gap after Ty Welkin was left stranded at third base.

Andrew Prow singled in Cody Whitsitt in the fifth inning to make it 7-4, but the Cardinals couldn’t get much of a rally going.

“The second game was a lot better and I thought we played a lot better defense,” Onaway coach Mike Crull said. “There’s still some things to work on in the field and when we’re hitting.”

Kyle Henigan threw a complete game for Hillman, striking out eight, walking none and scattering seven hits.

Dylan Steinke added two hits for Hillman.

Auger and Cleaver each had two hits for Onaway and Whitsitt took the loss. He struck out three and walked eight.

Hillman heated up at plate quickly in the first game, scoring four runs in the first inning.

Dylan Ross had an RBI triple and Henigan had an RBI single during the inning.

Ross led Hillman with two hits and Ty Jones earned the win on the mound, striking out eight, walking four and allowing three hits.

Onaway scored in the first inning on a double steal attempt, but were held in check the rest of the way. The Cardinals tacked on a run in the third inning after Cleaver singled in Auger, but Hillman responded with a five-run third.

Mason VanPamel came up with a two-run double during Hillman’s third-inning outburst and after the next two batters reached safely, Ross came through with a two-run single. Jones also had a sac fly.

Though he may have been worried, Firmin said he wasn’t surprised by the Tigers’ output on Tuesday, noting that most of the roster is very experienced.

“We’ve got a lot of three-year starters and they’re good baseball players,” Firmin said. “They’re smart and they know what’s going on.”

Matt Tollini took the loss for Onaway, surrendering seven hits while walking one and striking out one. Onaway was also hurt by several errors that allowed Hillman to extend a few innings.

“The first game was not good. Obviously it’s the first time we’ve been outside at all and getting used to taking the throws and the ground balls,” Crull said. “I don’t care how much you work in the gym, you can’t simulate a good ground ball or simulate a good fly ball.”

Hillman returns to the field on Friday and hosts Johannesburg-Lewiston. Onaway will play in a tournament Saturday in Kingsley.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.