HHS baseball: Leihy, Koop lead Trojans to victory against Marion
Hillsboro High School head baseball coach Phil Oelke didn't care as much about the number in front of the team name as much as he did the number that came after.
He knew his number two Trojans would have a tough game Monday against number seven Marion in the 3A Marion regional.
Although five seeds separated the two, the cross-county rivals were 2-2 against each other during the season.
"We knew this was going to be a close game going in," Oelke said.
And he was right.
The Trojans (10-7) fought back, down two runs in the fourth inning to defeat the Warriors 6-4.
Isaac Leihy pitched a complete game, and senior Mitchell Koop had two hits and two RBIs as the Trojans moved on to face Halstead Tuesday in semifinal action.
Koop delivered a double to get the scoring started in the bottom of the second.
"We've been trying to change Koop's swing for three years," Oelke said. "We finally got him to switch bats and he started hitting the ball really well, so we moved him up in the lineup."
It paid off as the senior also broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth with a single.
In what was a well-played game for the most part on both sides, the Warriors slipped up with two errors in the fourth to allow the Trojans to tie the game at three.
After Koop's hit in the fifth, Jacob Fish followed with a single that scored catcher Aaron Bina to give HHS a 5-3 lead.
With runners on first and third and one out, Chris Couts laid down a safety squeeze bunt, and Warrior pitcher Brian Fruechting had nowhere to go except first.
Couts was out, but another run was in and the Trojans had built their lead to 6-3.
"He just put a beautiful bunt down the line," Oelke said.
Despite having the lead with just two innings to go, Oelke gathered his team and reminded them of the 10-6, seventh-inning lead they blew 10 days before at home against Marion.
"I said don't let a repeat of a week and a half ago happen," Oelke said.
The Trojans didn't.
Despite a run in the sixth for MHS, the Trojans held on for the victory.
Going into the seventh inning Leihy had thrown 93 pitches, and he told Oelke he still felt good.
"I said 'I need an out' and we will bring somebody in," Oelke said.
However, Leihy ended up recording three in just 12 pitches to finish off the complete game.
The junior ended the game with five walks and seven strike outs.
"He didn't throw his best game, but he threw well enough," Oelke said of Leihy. "The south wind kind of handcuffed his curveball a little bit."
The bats did just enough for Hillsboro as well, with Koop the only Trojan to record more than one hit.
As a team they had six, to go along with four walks.
The game against Halstead did not end before press time.
A victory against the Dragons would have Hillsboro play the winner of Lyons-Sacred Heart 30 minutes after the completion of their game for the championship.
Look for results in next week's paper.