Solid hitting moves Hillman baseball team to 8-0

HILLMAN-Solid hitting has carried the Hillman baseball team a long way in the early part of the season.

On Monday, more solid hitting carried the Tigers to two more wins.

Hillman collected 19 hits on the way to sweeping a North Star League doubleheader with Oscoda, 9-1 and 13-6 (four innings).

The wins keeps the Tigers (8-0, 4-0) NSL perfect on the year and adds to an already strong start. Hillman is averaging more than eight runs a game while limiting their opponents to less than three runs a game.

“That (winning) makes everybody happy. When you’re in those 2-1 games all the time, guys struggle at the plate and they get down on themselves,” Hillman coach Rick Firman said. “When you’re winning, hitting is contagious and it showed today.”

The Tigers got going early in the opener, scoring four runs in the first inning and cruising from there. Ty Jones and David Julka had RBI singles in the first inning.

As potent as Hillman was at the plate, the Tigers were helped out by struggling Oscoda defense and pitching. Hillman took advantage of three walks, five passed balls and three stolen bases in the first inning to take the lead and never look back.

Oscoda had nearly a dozen passed balls in the game and Hillman had an easy day on the basepaths, stealing bases seemingly whenever it needed to.

“I think we just realized early we could run. I give most of the starting lineup the green light to steal at will and it makes it easy,” Firman said.

Singles from Mike Klein and Kyle Henigan added RBI singles for the Tigers in the second inning.

Hillman capped its scoring with three more runs in the third inning. Gunnar Libby got the big hit, coming up with a two-run single with one out to give Hillman an 8-0 lead. Mason VanPamel added a sacrifice fly before the end of the inning.

On the mound, Jones pitched a stellar game, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out seven. He held Oscoda scoreless for the first four innings and allowed just one hit in that span.

Oscoda’s only run came in the fifth inning after Brad Curley singled and later scored on a passed ball.

Klein and Trenton Hopp had two hits led Hillman with two hits each.

Hillman’s offense caught fire again early in the second game. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Tigers exploded for nine runs in the second inning and sent 13 batters to the plate.

The Tigers had five hits during the barrage, but also took advantage of four walks, including one with the bases loaded. All but one of Hillman’s starters scored a run during the inning. Henigan had a two-run single and Dylan Steinke, Hopp had RBI hits. Jones, Libby and Klein also had RBIs.

“That’s something we’ve been working on. We’ve really been pushing our hitting philosophy this year,” Firman said. “We want to make a lot of contact, we want to make pitchers work and we’ve played eight really good baseball games this year.”

VanPamel led Hillman with three hits.

Hillman added three more runs in the third inning with one coming on a passed ball and another coming on a bases-loaded walk.

Henigan pitched three perfect innings for the Tigers before the steady rain that started before the game turned into a heavy downpour.

That afforded the Owls a chance to get back into the game and they collected six runs on four hits during the top of the fourth inning. Three different Oscoda players drove in runs during the rally and the Owls also drew three walks.

The game was called at the half inning however, due to sloppy field conditions.

Firman said Henigan pitched well, but once the rain started, it made it difficult for him to pitch.

“Pitching was good until the mound got sloppy. You can’t hardly blame Kyle for struggling in the last inning,” Firman said. “The strike zone in that last game was a little erratic, but he fought through it.”

Hillman will host Gaylord St. Mary today starting at 4 p.m.

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