The Hillsboro baseball team lost both games to Pratt on April 22, 12-3 and 4-0. In the second game, the Trojans were shutout in six innings from Drake Everett and a closing inning from Skylar Dean.
The Trojans defeated Sunrise Academy twice on April 22, 16-1, in three innings and 12-2 in six innings. What may not have been obvious in any of the four one-sided games is that the Trojans showed improvment.
Three players exemplified these strides forward against Sunrise.
Third baseman Nathan Unruh showed why he is the Trojans best hitter in the second game of the series. Against a much better pitcher than in the error-filled first game, Unruh reached base every at-bat except one. In that at-bat, his second, he hit a deep fly ball into right field that scored a tag-up run from Lucas Sinclair.
In his next two at-bats, Unruh poked hits past the Sunrise second baseman into right field. The first scored Jordan Faul and Lucas Sinclair. The second also notched an RBI, with Sinclair again as the benefactor.
“He goes with the pitches well,” head coach Doug Dick said. “That’s important as a hitter.”
Dick said Unruh’s willingness to drive the ball the other way has been a marked improvement in his approach at the plate. Unruh had his breakout season last year as a junior, bashing a flurry of extra base hits deep into the outfield. However, last season, Unruh either crushed the ball or struck out. This season he has been difficult to strike out because of improved patience.
“He has to have fewer strikeouts,” Dick said.
Unruh’s left side infield battery mate, Jordan Faul, has shown his improvement on defense.
In the two game series against Sunrise, Faul fielded seven batted balls. The transitions from ground to throwing hand seem to smooth out even more as the second game reached into the latter innings. Faul made multiple plays ranging easily to his right.
“Jordan plays a great short stop, but he’s got to — that’s the captain of the infield,” Dick said.
The last player who showed improvement against Sunrise was pitcher Dylan Nelson. Faul and Unruh have repeatedly shown progress at the plate and in the field. Nelson has fewer opportunities as the Trojans third pitcher.
Unruh said pitching may be the Trojans’ weakness. Hillsboro will need some combination of Nelson, Josh Davidson, and Jakob Hanschu to pick up a couple of wins down the stretch and relieve the burden on top starters Faul and Kale Arnold.
Nelson gave up consecutive hits to start the first game against Sunrise, but proceeded to get two pop ups and grounder to end the threat. After the Trojans poured on seven runs in their half of the first, Nelson responded to the run support with a strike out and ground out in the next inning.
Nelson only gave up one run, unearned in the third inning. He only walked one batter.
“He just has crafty little lefty stuff,” Dick said of Nelson.
Dick would like Nelson to speed up the pace of his games to keep hitters off balance, and quicken his delivery to the plate to slow an opponent’s running game.