The first two games of the Little League Senior League central regional in Peru, Illinois, were simply to find a spot in the single-elimination tournament. Hiland, representing Ohio in the nine-team tournament, fared well, winning both contests to grab the top seed. While those were important, from here on out the games really mattered, and the Hawks took matters into their own hands, getting a flurry of hits to pound out a 9-1 win over Illinois.
Hiland took full advantage of gaining the tournament’s top seed after round robin play and took it to the number-eight-seed Illinois team to forge a 9-1 victory that propelled the Hawks into the central regional semifinals to face Michigan, a team it had defeated 2-0 in round robin play.
While the Hawks found hits hard to come by in the opening two contests, this one featured a 14-hit attack that saw the representatives from Ohio doing plenty of damage with the sticks.
The visiting team, Hiland didn’t wait long to begin attacking Illinois starter and eventual loser Bryan Walsh on the mound, and not surprisingly it was lead-off hitter and thorn in the side of opponents Tyler Kline who kick-started the four-run first.
Kline was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a wild pitch, took third when Andy Miller reached on an error and scored on Ryan Hershberger’s single to center. Hershberger then stole second base, and after Mike Shoup was hit by a pitch, Casey Kalman delivered a key two-run single to make it 3-0. Shoup would come around to score on Kevin Borntrager’s sacrifice fly, and the Hawks were in command at 4-0.
Borntrager then took the mound and gave Hiland coach Mike Yoder exactly what he needed to in order to keep Ohio ahead.
Borntrager faced the minimum number of batters in the first two innings of shutout baseball, allowing Hiland to add to its lead with a three-run third inning.
Borntrager proved that he could do more than pitch by swatting a Walsh offering over the wall in center for a home run and a 5-0 Hiland lead. Logan Miller then walked, took second on a balk and a single from Kline moved him to third with one out. Kline stole second before Andy Miller delivered a hammer shot to center for a double that scored two more to make it 7-0.
Borntrager got touched for a run in the bottom of the inning as he allowed the first and only run Hiland pitchers gave up in the first three games of the tournament. With two outs and none on, Borntrager gave up a pair of singles and a pair of walks to force in a run to make it 7-1.
The Hawks answered with two runs in the top of the fifth to make it 9-1. With one out Andy Miller singled and took second on an error on the play. He stole third before Hershberger and Shoup were both plunked, and Kalman came through again with his second run-scoring single of the game before Ricky Miller’s single plated another run.
Meanwhile, in the fourth inning Shoup became a key piece of the puzzle for Hiland. With Hiland leading 7-1, Borntrager loaded the bases on a hit batter, a single and a walk, prompting head coach Mike Yoder to call on Shoup to try to wiggle out of the jam.
He did exactly that, slamming the door with an impressive pitching performance that saw him strand all three base runners. Shoup induced a ground ball to third that was gobbled up by Kalman, who cut down the lead runner at the plate for out number one. The next hitter then lined a ball to shortstop Andy Miller, who caught it, whirled and threw to second baseman Drew Yoder, who doubled off the Illinois runner to squelch the rally.
Shoup would go two and one-third innings, allowing just a lone walk, and Kalman would come on in relief to fire one and one-third innings of no-hit, one-walk baseball to advance Ohio to the semifinals.
Andy Miller went 4-for-5, scoring two, driving in a pair and stealing two bases to lead the Hawks’ offense. Kalman added three hits, driving in three and scoring a run, while Hershberger recorded two hits, two runs and swiped four bases. Kline scored twice, and Borntrager added the two-run bomb.