By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Forget the little things. Hilldale got back on its feet Tuesday by doing the obvious – just plain ol’ hitting with a mix of good pitching which in the end, overcame some good hitting itself.
The defending Class 4A champs used an 11-hit attack and a sometimes dominating pitching effort from their ace, Hunter Harrison, to down Checotah 11-5 at Hornet Field, putting an end to a four-game losing streak.
Harrison (2-1) allowed three hits over four innings and had six strikeouts before Checotah struck for three runs on four hits in the fifth to hold off what appeared on the verge of a run-rule win. That’s because Hilldale plated eight runs on six hits in the bottom of the fourth after Wildcats starter Kameron Elerick gave way to Cole Christian, who faced a 10-batter onslaught after getting the first out of the inning on a groundout.
“Kameron did a great job through three but he was behind in the pitch count all day and his pitch count had gotten too long (over 80),” noted Checotah coach Tom Butler, whose squad is now 4-2. “But our guys kept fighting. They had the attitude it wasn’t over until it was over.”
The Hornets (2-4), meanwhile, needed to shake an attitude that had soured in a somewhat-surprising early season skid. Harrison, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, doubled in a run and Colby Mullens, who was 2-for-3 with a walk, driving Harrison home in the Hilldale half of the first to overcome an early 1-0 hole.
That score stood until the eight-run uprising. Nine consecutive Hornets reached base off Christian after he got Aaron Sanders on a groundout to begin the inning. Cameron Orman singled in a pair, Mullens singled in another run and Harrison singled in one. Hilldale also collected a run off a dropped fly, two off bases-loaded walks and another on a passed ball.
The 10-1 lead wasn’t ever seriously threatened although Checotah found the rhythm against Harrison in the fifth. Christian doubled into the right field corner with a shot that Orman had to dig out from behind the tarp, scoring one run. Trey Blankenship singled Christian in then Wyatt Hatridge doubled home Blankenship.
Elerick led off the Checotah seventh by singling and later scoring off Harrison, who hit Christian with a pitch in the inning. But he escaped further damage for an eight-hit, 11 strikeout effort.
“We wanted to get a look at somebody like that and I thought our guys attacked him pretty well,” Butler said. “He did a great job on the mound too so hats off to him.”
Hilldale coach Darren Riddle didn’t seem bothered by the late uprising.
“That’s definitely a good hitting team,” Riddle said. “Hunter made good pitches and they had good swings.”
Added Harrison: “I never thought I threw bad, so yeah, they showed they have some pretty good hitters.
“But for us, it’s just lot of weight off our shoulders to get the W. Now we can get back on track. Two more games this week and before you know it we’re back at .500.”
Checotah is in the Mannford Tournament later this week. Hilldale gets Glenpool on Friday and Oologah on Saturday, both at home.