The Hiland Hawks Senior League team seems to have taken to the role of comeback kids.
It suits them well.
In the first three games at the Little League Senior League state tournament in Enon, Ohio, the Hawks had to come from behind in all three contests, but an iron will to win has allowed them to overcome their opponents to go 3-0 and reach the state finals.
The excitement began from pitch one of game one when Hiland faced Mason in the tournament’s first game. The 8-4 Hiland victory was at the same time easier and not as easy as the final score might indicate.
Hiland starter Korrie Hostetler allowed the first four batters of the game to reach base, and two walks and two singles put Mason on top. But just when it looked like Hostetler was in trouble, he induced a pop out, recorded a huge strikeout and got an inning-ending ground ball to limit the damage.
Six pitches later Hiland went down in order, and Hostetler again found himself in a world of trouble in the second inning. A pair of walks and an error loaded the bases again, but Hostetler stood strong and got a big-time strikeout to keep the count at 1-0.
It took Hiland six pitches to go one-two-three in its half of the second inning, but Hostetler was getting in a groove and started getting Mason batters out easily.
Meanwhile the Hawks wouldn’t put a runner on base until the fourth when they took a 2-1 lead. Lead-off batter Tyler Kline reached on a bunt single, and Andy Miller smoked a single to left before Ryan Hershberger hammered a double to center to score both runners.
Mason tied it in the top of the fifth, but the Hawks seemed renewed at the plate, scoring three times in the fifth to forge a 5-2 lead, and it all came with two outs and nobody on base.
Drew Yoder walked, Brett Miller pinch ran and Kline slapped a single to left. Andy Miller shot a single to left, and Brett Miller raced home just ahead of the tag. Hershberger then came through again by drilling a single to center to score both runners.
Michael Shoup came on to pitch for Hiland and breezed through the sixth, and Hiland went back to work, scoring three more times in the sixth.
Ricky Miller started the inning by getting hit by a pitch, and Brett Miller took over as a pinch runner. Kobe Shetler drew a one-out walk, and Logan Miller hammered a ball off the wall in center to make it 7-2. Logan Miller eventually scored on a ground-out, and it looked like clear sailing for the Hawks, but Shoup struggled to find the control he had in the first inning and walked a pair, then balked both runners up a base, prompting head coach Mike Yoder to summon closer Andy Miller, who recorded a pair of quick strikeouts before allowing a two-run single. But he quietly closed the game out with a third strikeout.
Hershberger, Kline and Andy Miller each had two hits while Hershberger drove in four runs and Logan Miller drove home a pair.
Hostetler picked up the win, going five innings while dancing in and out of trouble. He allowed four hits and walked five while striking out eight. The trio of Hostetler, Shoup and Andy Miller struck out a total of 13 Mason batters on the day.