Over the past several years Hiland’s Senior League team has doled out some serious beatings to foes at the state tournament. In reaching the 2017 state title game, the Hawks showed they can win some close ones too.
Heading into the winner’s bracket final at the 15 to 16-year-old Senior Little League state tournament, Hiland had already recorded a pair of come-from-behind victories. Yet neither of those comebacks could hold a candle to the thrilling comeback win the Hawks posted over Rock Hill on Sunday, July 9.
Trailing by three heading into the bottom of the seventh against a Rock Hill team that came into the game 20-0, the Hawks took advantage of three Rock Hill errors and staged a four-run seventh that paved the way for a stunning 7-6 victory that sent them soaring into the finals.
Chasing their ninth consecutive state championship, it didn’t look good against a Rock Hill team that looked like it would send Hiland into the loser’s bracket.
After Hiland starting pitcher Ryan Hershberger was nicked for a run in the top of the first, Hiland took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second. In the inning Kevin Borntrager and Casey Kalman singled, and Rock Hill committed a pair of miscues. Hiland added another run in the fourth when Kobe Shetler singled home Ricky Miller, who had also singled to start the inning.
However, in the fifth inning the danger that had been lurking all game for Hershberger finally caught up to him.
Seven out of the first nine batters singled off of Hershberger, producing a five-run inning. Now trailing 6-3, Hiland’s bats would have to produce, but the Hawks went three up, three down in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Andy Miller had stymied Rock Hill’s offense over the final two frames, and the Hawks entered the bottom of the seventh needing three to stay alive. They did one better.
It started when Kalman drew a walk to lead off the inning. A Rock Hill error brought Michael Shoup to the plate as a pinch hitter. Just as he had done in game two, Shoup came through with a run-scoring pinch-hit single to trim the deficit to 6-4. With nobody out, Tyler Kline singled home another run to make it 6-5, and Andy Miller’s ground-out tied the score, leaving him on first with one out. Andy Miller stole second on a close play and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After allowing 14 hits through five innings, Hershberger decided to get one of his own and lofted a soft liner into right center that fell in and gave the Hawks a walk-off victory.
Statistically Rock Hill should have won the game, pounding out 16 hits to Hiland’s eight. However, Hiland stranded only two base runners to Rock Hill’s nine, and Rock Hill committed four errors that led to four unearned runs.
Andy Miller picked up the win with two-and-one-third innings of two-hit shut-out baseball. Hershberger allowed six runs, four of them earned, and was hammered for 14 hits.
Offensively Landon Smith, Trey Bailey and Kaleb Kidd all racked out three hits for Rock Hill while the Hawks were led by Kline’s two singles and Kalman’s two RBIs.