By Jimmy Stinson
The Hilldale Hornets, the defending Class 4A state champions, opened their 2013 campaign in convincing fashion on Monday needing only five innings and the arm of Hunter Harrison to defeat the Keys Cougars 13-1 at Hornet Field in the season opener for both teams.
Harrison, a Connors State College commit, allowed only one run and one hit against the Cougars while striking out seven in only three innings of work.
"I felt pretty good, it was nice to come out and get a win today," he said. "I have been throwing and hitting for four or five weeks in the morning, but this is my first full week of practice."
Harrison went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored at the plate but the most damage was done by Hornets’ third baseman Derek Altman, who finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a run scored.
Keys starting pitcher Tyler Blankenship started off well, recording the first two outs against the Hornets but it was all downhill from there.
Harrison and Landon Cookson both drew walks and Scott Rodden made the Cougars pay with a hard hit to left center to score both runners. After Cameron Orman reached on an error, a single by Hornets’ shortstop Colby Mullens scored Orman and chased Blankenship from the game.
Dillon Stratton replaced Blankenship on the hill and gave up an RBI-single to Altman and the Hornets were ahead 5-0.
The only bumpy spot for Harrison came in the second inning. After striking out Blankenship, Stratton reached base on a walk, moved to second on an error and came home on an Elisha Allison single. No other Cougar was able to reach base on Harrison.
"We are young and don't have all the numbers we need,” said Keys’ coach Calvin Klugh. "Our freshman hit as well as our upperclassmen. We just have to work on getting better."
The second inning saw the Hornets send 10 batters to the plate and add six more runs. Miles Jackson led off with a single, followed by a walk to Isaac Isham. Cookson reached on an error, Orman collected a single and Colby Mullens drew a walk. Altman drove in two more runs on a liner to left field.
"Hunter picked up where he left off last year,” said Hilldale coach Darren Riddle. “It will take him a couple of weeks to get his arm strength back. He pitched well."
The Hornets plated two more runs in the third to finish the scoring. Isham and Harrison both singled and scored on an error and a fielder's choice, respectively.
Blankenship took the loss for Keys, going 2/3 of an inning, giving up five runs on three hits.
The Hornets return to action today when they travel to Berryhill while Keys hosts Stilwell.