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Hot bats fuel Trojans 8-game streak

Staff writer

The Hillsboro High School baseball team pushed its current winning streak to eight games Friday with two wins over Marion in Hillsboro, 8-3 and 8-6.

The Trojans started the season 4-4, losing two games to Little River and then splitting with Nickerson and Kingman. Hillsboro swept Lyons April 12 to start its meteoric rise; hitting has been the number one factor in the Trojans 12-4 record.

Aaron Bina hit in the three hole Friday for Hillsboro. In two games, he went 5-for-7 with 5 runs scored, three RBIs, and two stolen bases.

While it would have been a standout performance for any other player on the diamond, Bina has hit close to .600 this year. Coach Doug Dick said he can only remember Bina struggling at the plate a game at a time.

“I’ve just focused a lot in the batting cage,” Bina said. “I saw a lot of off-speed stuff (Friday). I just drove it.”

Indicative of his season, the player who hits behind Bina, Ben Gardner, started off the Marion series slow before heating up to make two of the most important plays in the second game. He went 1-for-4 in the first game; he notched his only hit in his last at-bat, which drove in the Trojans’ seventh run in the sixth inning.

In the second game, Gardner went 2-for-2 with 2 runs and two RBIs. Marion was leading 6-4 in the fifth inning when Gardner tied the score with one swing. Bina watched the home run fly over the left field fence from second base.

“He might go into a slump but he’ll end the slump by jacking one over the fence,” Bina said. “He’ll go yard and he’ll be hitting well.”

Dick said Gardner has accumulated more than five home runs this season.

“The one hit out tonight,” Dick said, “I don’t think he hit it solid. His slugging percentage is way up there.”

Gardner also came up with the game-saving defensive play in the seventh inning. Warrior right fielder Taylor Heidebrecht hit a shot to Gardner at third base. Gardner dived to his right to catch the line drive. He quickly crawled on his stomach to tag the vacant base Marion catcher Caleb Williams had occupied. Hillsboro was only up two runs, 8-6, and the Warriors had the bases loaded when Gardner made the catch.

“He made a play similar to that at Little River,” Dick said. “That was incredible.”

Another player who came up with a big night at the plate in the second game was freshman Jordan Faul. Faul went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base. He recorded the hit that gave Hillsboro a 7-6 lead in the fifth inning.

“J-Fly always comes through,” Bina said, using Faul’s nickname. “He’s done it before.”

“He doesn’t have a strikeout yet,” Dick said of Faul. “He’ll hit a pitch anywhere in the strike zone. He has a knack for getting the bat on the ball.”

The Trojans’ pitching during the eight-game winning streak has almost been as strong as the hitting.

Dylan Delk started on the mound in the first game. He pitched a complete game, only surrendering three hits and striking out four Marion hitters. He did not walk a Warrior batter. While the Warriors scored 3 runs, none of the runs were earned.

“He had everything working,” Delk’s catcher Bina said. “He had the deuce and his change-up. He kept guys guessing.”

Delk was also adept at throwing strikes early in counts so he could throw pitches out of the strike zone to record outs.

Bina started the second game. He had only given up a single run before surrendering 5 runs in the fifth inning. He struck out four batters.

Dick said regular center fielder Luke Moore’s best position is pitcher; he is filling the role as the Trojans second-best hurler this season. Just behind Moore in the rotation is Kale Arnold, who Dick said has also pitched well.

As was the case earlier in the year, the Trojans’ weakness was defense Friday, Dick said. They committed 11 errors in the two games against Marion.

“Defensively we’re so young and inexperienced,” Dick said. “If we don’t boot the ball around we win those games easily.”

The first game was tied at 3 before Bina scored off an error. With a only a 1-run lead, the Warriors threatened with two runners on in the top of the sixth inning, before Hillsboro pulled away with 4 runs in the sixth.

The Trojans have used their offense to be resilient and Dick hopes the team can stay hot through regionals.

“We just need to win out and give us the best shot possible (in regionals),” Dick said.

The Trojans played Tuesday against Smoky Valley at home. Regionals begin Monday in Marion.

Last modified May 11, 2011

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