The Hiland Hawks Senior Little League baseball team took a gigantic step toward securing a 10th-straight state title on Sunday, July 8 when the Hawks took down Rock Hill 5-0 in the state tournament in Maumee, Ohio.
The biggest reason Hiland secured a spot in the finals of the double-elimination tournament was thanks to the tournament’s biggest player, pitcher Korrie Hostetler.
The lanky 6-foot, 7-inch right-hander sat down the first eight batters he faced and ended up scattering five hits in shutting down Rock Hill.
Hostetler was brilliant in going the distance, firing seven innings, striking out eight while walking three.
Meanwhile, Hiland got all the runs it would need in the top of the first inning when the Hawks jumped on Rock Hill starter Brayden Friend for three scores.
After Brett Miller struck out to open the game, Jared Hostetler reached on an error, and Kobe Shetler drew a walk. That brought up slugging catcher Casey Kalman, who hammered a two-run double to put Hiland ahead. After advancing to third on a ground out off the bat of Isaiah Miller, Friend balked home Kalman, and the Hawks led 3-0.
Hostetler struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the inning, and the Hawks went back to work on Friend in the second. With one out Reece Schlabach reached via a walk and took second on a wild pitch. Owen Hankins relieved Friend and induced a fly out off the bat of Brett Miller, a drive that allowed Schlabach to advance to third base. That paid dividends when, like Friend before him, Hankins committed a balk that allowed Hiland’s fourth run to cross home plate.
Hostetler cruised through the second inning quickly, getting nice plays from right fielder Casey Lowe and left fielder Kobe Shetler, and Hiland looked to put more distance between itself and Rock Hill.
It looked goof when Shetler led off with a double to right, but as he turned the base and headed to third, he lost his footing, found himself in a run-down and was quickly tagged out. Hiland then went quietly.
Rock Hill finally got a base runner in the third when Hostetler issued a walk to the nine-hitter. Isaiah Miller then couldn’t hang on to shallow flair, putting two runners on for Rock Hill, but Hostetler was equal to the task, inducing a lazy fly out to right to end the inning.
Hiland tried to extend its lead again in the fourth, but a nice play by Rock Hill’s defense cut down Collin Lowe at second base as he tried to stretch a single into a double to get into scoring position with two outs.
Rock Hill again mounted a threat in the bottom of the inning when Hostetler allowed a walk and an infield single, but the big righty got a key strikeout before the Hawks ended the inning with a double play.
Back came the Hawks, who were really struggling with solving Hankins, who continued to pound the inside portion of the plate. With one out in the fifth, Brett Miller singled and took second on an errant pick-off attempt. With two outs Shetler launched a pop fly into shallow center field, where the shortstop couldn’t find the grip, and the error cost Rock Hill a run, giving Hiland a 5-0 lead.
Hostetler again found himself in a jam in the bottom of the fifth when he allowed a one-out single and then fired a potential double-play ball into the dirt at second base, allowing both runners to reach safely.
However, Isaiah Miller tracked down a foul ball by the fence at first base, and Shetler made a catch in left to again leave Rock Hill runners on base.
Hiland went quickly in the sixth, and with one on and one out, both Shetler and Casey Lowe tracked down long fly balls to keep Rock Hill off the board going into the final inning.
After the Hawks failed to conjure up a threat in the top of the final inning, Rock Hill got one last crack at solving Hostetler, who worked around a two-out single to strike out the final batter to secure the win and move the Hawks into the finals for the 10th-straight year.
While Hiland put up five runs, it was far from a slugfest. Like Rock Hill, Hiland managed just five hits but made the most of them while taking advantage of the pair of balks and cashing in on two walks.
With the win Hiland is now in the driver’s seat, awaiting the winner of the Maumee versus Rock Hill winner. In the double-elimination format, Hiland would have to lose twice in the finals, and with pitching getting thin for teams coming out of the loser’s bracket, things look bright for a 10th-straight state title.