By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Hilldale’s Hunter Harrison proved on Monday why he is the ace of the Hornets’ pitching staff.
The senior struck out 13 Locust Grove batters, including the final seven of the game, leading the Hornets (11-7) to an 11-1 run-rule win over the Pirates at Hornets Field, avenging a 9-6 loss to Locust Grove on March 21.
Harrison also showed the importance of getting ahead in the count as he threw a first-pitch strike to 15 of the 20 batters he faced.
“If you get the first pitch for a strike, it sets up all your off-speed,” Harrison said. “If you can keep them off-balance, you’re in good shape.”
While Harrison was keeping the Pirates (5-10) off the base paths, the Hornets’ offense was providing ample support. Hilldale was patient at the plate, inducing six walks and forcing Locust Grove to commit three errors to go along with its nine hits.
“That’s something we’ve struggled with in our losses is not being disciplined at the plate, going out of the zone on pitches and getting ourselves behind in the count,” said Hilldale coach Darren Riddle. “Today, we stayed patient at the plate and squared up on a lot of balls. We only had two strikeouts, hit some balls hard and put pressure on their defense.”
The only inning that the Pirates gave the Hornets any trouble was the first. That’s when they plated their only run of the game after Dylan Hughes reached on an error and came in to score on Aaron Conway’s single through the right side of the infield.
Hilldale got that run back in the bottom of the inning. Colby Mullens poked a one-out single up the middle, raced to third on a hit-and-run by Harrison and came home when Conway threw wildly to third from centerfield, evening the score at 1-1.
The Hornets took control in the second inning, plating four runs on four hits. Derek Altman scored the first run on a Miles Jackson single, Derek Altman came home on an error, Jackson touched home on Harrison single and Mullens scored on a Scott Rodden single, giving Hilldale a 5-1 advantage.
“It’s always easier to pitch when you get a lead like we got,” Harrison said.
Hilldale put the game out of reach in the third inning, scoring six runs on only three hits. Jackson drove in the first run of the inning with a single, Harrison induced a bases-loaded walk for the second run, Rodden walked bringing home Jackson, Bailey Puckett brought home Mullens and Harrison with runs four and five and Isaac Isham closed out the scoring with a ground out to second, scoring Rodden.
During that time, Harrison allowed only two runners to reach base, one on an error and the other on a single. The Connors State signee recorded three strikeouts in the second and two in the third.
“Coach Frisby did a good job calling the pitches,” Harrison said. “Isaac did a good job framing and I executed the pitches.”
For the game, Harrison and Mullens were 2-for-3 each. Harrison, Puckett and Rodden each drove in two runs while Mullens scored three times and Altman, Jackson and Riede each scored twice.
“Hunter was pretty dominant today,” Riddle said. “He does that alot. He was getting stronger as the game went on. He could have been good today for a nine-, 10- or 11-inning ball game.”