Fourth and fifth innings push Galena past Hillsboro, 6-2, in first round
Daniel Jost sat dejectedly in the Hillsboro dugout, his eyes transfixed on the scoreboard at Manhattan’s Norvell Field.
The lone senior on the Trojans’ baseball team, Jost was down to his final chance at a coveted state title after coming close throughout a stellar career as a three-sport standout.
For 3 1/2 innings Friday, Hillsboro looked like it would be the team moving on to the second round.
Unfortunately for the youthful Trojans, the Galena Bulldogs’ fourth and fifth innings spoiled Hillsboro’s bid to advance in pursuit of its first state baseball title.
Galena scored six runs on seven hits in the innings, while Bulldog ace Dakota Walker fired a one-hitter to top the Trojans, 6-2.
The Bulldogs eventually were upended, 4-1, by defending class 3A champion Silver Lake.
“We looked young, which is exactly what we are,” said Trojan coach Phil Oelke. “You go one senior, four juniors and basically start two sophomores and a freshman. You’re not going to look great all the time.
“I thought we competed well for the most part. We knew they had an all-state pitcher who had an ERA under 0.30. He mixed his speeds up really, really well and stayed around the plate. At times we looked decent and other times we were so off-balance it was difficult to do much.”
The last time Oelke guided the Trojans to state, in 2003, Jost’s brother Dustin was a standout.
Dustin’s team met the same fate, losing in the first round to eventual runner-up Wichita Trinity.
Few schools outside of Silver Lake have dominated class 3A and 2-1A baseball like the Bulldogs’ Cherokee Neosha Crawford Conference in Southeast Kansas .
Baxter Springs has won four of the past seven 3A baseball titles, and perennial powerhouse Pittsburg Colgan has won the past six 2-1A titles — 14 total since 1964.
The Bulldogs were the team responsible for handing Colgan its only loss of the year.
That didn’t seem to faze the Trojans with Tyler Ediger putting them on top 2-0 with a two-run single to shallow right field in the top half of the first inning.
Hillsboro was able to work Walker deep in his count, but after Ediger’s hit, the Bulldog ace shut down the Trojan offense.
Ediger avoided disaster early after walking Grant Thompson to lead off the Galena half of the first.
The Bulldogs had the tying run at the plate but came away with nothing thanks to a double play started by Chris Couts.
Galena had another chance at cutting the lead in half with Jacoby Martin driving a stand-up double deep to center field.
Ediger escaped again with Martin stranded at second.
The Trojans had a golden opportunity to extend their lead in the top half of the fourth with Ediger on third and no outs.
But, the only real chance Hillsboro had slipped away when Ediger was thrown out at the plate.
The Trojans’ foundation started cracking in the bottom of the fourth with Walker belting a run-scoring triple to pull Galena to within one.
The Bulldogs knotted the game at two, closing out the fourth with a run-scoring fielder’s choice.
All Hillsboro needed was one out.
Instead, Colton Leet singled in the go-ahead run, and a throwing error to third left the Trojans two down with two outs.
Walker made it a 5-2 game with a single to cap the five-hit fifth.
“We had some defensive problems, especially there in fifth,” Oelke said. “We had two outs, then committed two errors, and they go ahead and go up.
“We had to have that run off third. We just couldn’t get the out, so the kid scores and now they’re up three. We already knew we couldn’t give up another run because of the way we were hitting. There was no way I felt we could go down three with two innings left and make it happen.”
Galena’s five hits equaled as many base runners as Hillsboro had on the night. Its one-through-five hitters combined to go 1-for-10.
Galena put the game on ice in the sixth when Zach Gougler led off with a double off Ediger.
Thompson’s RBI-single marked the end of an 11-hit outing for Ediger, who gave way to Jacob Edwards. Edwards escaped without further damage.