By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Its power graduated to places like Lubbock, Texas, Hilldale's encore path on the heels of its Class 4A title will be more of the small-ball variety.
After a slow start in that direction, it's beginning to jell, just as it did Saturday in a 6-1 win over the Oologah Mustangs at Hornet Field.
Take for example the cleanup hitter, Scott Rodden. The senior was hitless in three at-bats, but two of those wound up as sacrifice bunts that produced runs.
The first pushed Isaac Isham, who singled with one out in the first, and Hunter Harrison, who walked, into scoring position for Colby Mullens, whose liner into left made it a 2-0 game as part of a three-run Hilldale first inning. Then in the third, he again bunted up Harrison, who walked, then took advantage of two wild pitches by Mustangs starting pitcher Dalton Barnes to make it a 4-0 game.
Harrison might've scored anyway because Bill Muse Jr. ripped his second two-out double of the game, the first driving home Mullens in the first inning. That was the closes thing to power hitting to replace guys like Jarrard Poteete, whose solo home run as a Texas Tech freshman beat Texas 1-0 on Friday night. Poteete was the first part of a three-man heart of the order of Dalton Cunningham and Seth Boling, all power hitters and all playing collegiately now.
“I don't think we've settled on what we're going to do with the clean-up spot but we're not the team we were last year at the plate and that's not going to change,” Hilldale coach Darren Riddle said. “The difference between 1-4 and now is that we're doing a better job getting bunts down.”
The Hornets are now 4-4 after their third consecutive win.
Asked if the bunting on his resume could win the job, Rodden laughed.
“It's working,” he said. “Last year I hit in the seven-hole so I did a lot of it.”
Riddle might have found another candidate in Muse, who was moved up one spot in the lineup to the six spot on Saturday.
“He's still developing but he's got a good eye and is selective at what he swings at,” Riddle said.
But not without fault. Muse struck out his final at-bat as did Rodden and four other batters against Thomas Helvick, who moved from catcher to replace Barnes to start the sixth inning.
“I'm just now really getting into baseball shape after being in basketball... a lot of muscle memory, stuff like that,” Muse said.
Hilldale added a pair of runs in the fourth when Dakota Holmes, who replaced Cameron Orman in right field and the 8 hole spot, singed and later scored on a wild pitch. Miles Jackson, who singled and moved to third on the wild pitch, scored on a passed ball third strike on Isham, who was out on the throw to first.
Harrison (3-1) got the mound win, scattering six hits in going the distance. His only three-up, three-down inning was the seventh. He got a big shot in the arm from a two-on, two out play by Isham at second, whose dive up the middle stabbed a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Taylor Kelley. The freshman flagged it and tossed to Mullens covering at second for the out.
“That scores one and as hard as it was hit, maybe two,” Riddle said.
Harrison struck out four.
“He kept us off balance, spotted up well,” said Oologah coach Kerry Hallmon, whose 6-5 squad has holes to fill with three freshman starters but entered the game No. 6 in the 4A rankings, 11 spots ahead of the Hornets. They have mutual defeats this season at the hands of Wagoner.
”We finally came around the last couple of innings and hit the ball hard, just at some people who made plays.”
Hilldale plays Fort Gibson at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Fort Gibson, where the Hornets will also meet Roland at 5 p.m.