By John Mast
In a much-anticipated baseball matchup of annual IVC powers, Hiland bested visiting Garaway 8-0 behind an outstanding start by senior Eric Mullet Tuesday, April 19 at Lehman Field.
Mullet tossed a complete game three-hitter, striking out 10 Pirates on his way to what became a late lopsided win for the Hawks.
“He had a rough outing last outing, but we put him back out there today knowing he would be very focused against Garaway,” said Hiland head coach Tom Gibson of Mullet. “When I told him he was pitching, he was pretty excited. We felt we would get the best out of him.”
After a scoreless first, the hosts got to Garaway starter B.J. Schwartz when Tyson Gingerich and Braden Mast led off the home half of the second inning with singles to get runners on the corners. After Mast stole second, Derek Miller walked and Gingerich scored on a wild pitch. Miller then stole second and a Zach Coblentz single to right drove in two to give Hiland a 3-0 lead.
The Hawks tacked on another pair in the third when Gingerich and Mast again singled, followed by an RBI single by Miller. After again stealing second, Miller advanced third on another Coblentz single before being cut down at the plate by the Pirates when attempting a double steal.
Meanwhile, Garaway was trying to deal with Mullet on the mound, which looked like a steep hill to climb with the Hiland ace dealing with the support of a five run lead.
Cleanup hitter Dallas Foster singled in the second inning and crushed a leadoff double in the seventh, but both times Mullet dug deep and struck out the next three Pirate hitters to end any potential threat.
The seven innings of shutout baseball put Mullet in rarified air. The Hiland senior moved to the top of the list, having allowed no earned runs in and OHSAA-record 74-1/3 innings.
“It’s not something I think a lot about, I just want to go out and get hitters out one at a time,” said Mullet following the win. “I am very honored to be where I am in the record books, but now that is in the past, and I want to focus on helping us get better and win ball games.”
Hiland put the game out of reach in the sixth on an RBI single by Mitch Massaro, followed by Coblentz coming through again with a 2-RBI single to balloon the lead to nine.
Foster’s two hits led the Pirates, who were out-hit 15-3. He was joined by Ian Hershberger, who singled in the fourth.
“Eric (Mullet) threw very well,” said Garaway head coach Justin Elmore. “We felt Dallas (Foster) was the only guy who accepted the uncomfortability in the box. The problem is, there are eight other guys in the line-up who didn’t step up to the challenge tonight.”
Hiland was paced by a huge night from Coblentz, their senior left-fielder, who stroked four hits while driving in three. Braden Mast also had three singles, while Bryan Yoder and Tyson Gingerich both added two for the Hawks.
The 15-hit attack came at the expense of the Pirate staff. Schwartz went the first three, surrendering five runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out one. Schwartz was relieved by Derek Briggs, who was tagged for four runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three in 2 1/3 innings. Joel Honigford got the final out in the sixth.
For the Hawks, Mullet was again overpowering, something Hiland followers have gotten used to over the past number of years. The senior, who has committed to Malone, has been a mainstay in the rotation since his sophomore year, and continues to impress.
“We’ve been out here the last couple of years where we have just flat-out beaten ourselves, and that didn’t happen tonight,” said Elmore. “We only had one error tonight, and that has been our Achilles heel so far this year, but that wasn’t the case tonight. We just got beat by a guy who was just pretty dominant.”
The win improves Hiland’s record to 12-0 (8-0 IVC). The Hawks travel to East Canton on Thursday before facing off with Akron St. Vincent St. Mary at Rubber Ducks’ stadium on Friday at 7p.m.
After a stretch of lackluster play, Gibson was glad to see his team more focused.
“Our goal is to go undefeated in the IVC,” he said. “This would be the third year in a row, if we can do it. But we have to play more consistently, because we have been challenged by teams that aren’t that good, and it is typically because we haven’t done very well ourselves.”
With the loss, Garaway drops to 6-6 on the year, as well as suffering its second loss in IVC play.