Trojan baseball team finishes as regional runner-up
Losing by two runs in the regional championship game isn't a fairy tale ending for any team.
But for the Hillsboro High School baseball team it proved they belonged with the best of the best.
With just one senior and two juniors, the Trojans fought hard all season to the tune of an 11-8 record and a regional runner-up plaque.
The state tournament was just a few innings away for HHS after defeating Halstead 9-3 May 13 in the semifinal game.
The Trojans led number one seed Sacred Heart 7-4 in the fourth inning, before the Knights came back to win 9-7.
"We had a chance to win," HHS head coach Phil Oelke said. "I was really pleased with that."
Of course, he said, they would have liked to move on to state, but Oelke told his players he was proud of them.
After defeating Marion 6-4 May 12 in the first round of regionals, Oelke knew anything could happen.
Perhaps it was the revenge factor that helped the Trojans against Halstead, after the Dragons took two games from HHS on its home field.
"The guys admitted they didn't show up to play," Oelke said about the first meeting. "I felt like we could compete with them."
Hillsboro did more than that.
A six-run second inning set the tone for the game, and the Trojans never were challenged.
Tyler Ediger made his first start of the season, pitching a complete game, giving up eight hits, three runs, and striking out four.
"He pitched a heck of game," Oelke said, "and defensively we played well."
The offense wasn't so bad either, banging out 12 hits, including six doubles and two home runs.
Ediger helped himself out with a two-run shot in the six-run second inning, and junior Daniel Jost put the nail in the coffin with a two-run homer in the third inning.
"I thought we were in pretty good shape after the second home run," Oelke said.
Ediger was the star at the plate, going 3-4 with the home run and two RBIs.
Jost had two hits and three RBIs, while Devin Funk chipped in with two RBIs, and Jacob Edwards was 2-4 with two runs knocked in.
In the championship loss to Sacred Heart, an RBI-single from senior Mitchell Koop capped off a four-run fourth that gave Hillsboro a 7-4 lead.
Koop, the team's only senior, was 4-11 with three RBIs during the regional tournament.
"Mitchell's always been there for us," Oelke said. "I've coached him for three years, and he has never missed a practice. Never missed a game."
As the only senior on the team, Oelke said Koop led with his actions.
"He's a selfless kid," Oelke said. "Whatever we asked him to do, he did it. Or at least he tried."
The Trojans will have a senior class of only two next year, and with the success of this season, Oelke is optimistic about the future.
"We're just excited where we could potentially be," he said.