Houston first baseman Tanner Cantrell knocks down a ground ball during Monday's game against Willow Springs.

A 13-inning loss left the Houston baseball team still searching for its first victory of 2012.

Willow Springs pushed across two runs in the top of the 13th inning to break a 1-all tie and escaped Tiger Field with a 3-2 victory Monday.

The defeat was Houston’s sixth consecutive loss to begin the season –– the worst start in coach Brent Hall’s 15-year tenure leading the program.

“This is not acceptable in our athletic program,” Hall said. “These are great kids. They try hard. But they’ve got to go out there and get the job done. Bottom line. As the coach, I’m responsible for that and somehow, I’ve got to get them over this hump.”

Houston’s struggles are mainly offensive ones. The Tigers are batting .160 as a team and only one player has an average above .300. They struck out 16 times against the Bears.

Hall said he sees players swinging at too many balls and not shortening their stroke with two strikes.

“There were only two balls in 13 innings that we centered,” Hall said. “That’s unacceptable. We’ve got to hit more balls hard and put more balls in play.”

The Tigers’ offensive woes spoiled a strong effort from starter Ethan Williamson. The senior right-hander struck out a career-best 16 batters in 10 innings while walking two. He allowed five hits and one earned run.

There were nine straight scoreless innings before Willow Springs pushed across a pair of runs with three consecutive hits in the 13th.

Houston answered with Tanner Cantrell’s bloop RBI single to score Quinton Alston, who led off the inning with a double. But Cantrell was left stranded on first to end the game.

Cantrell, a freshman, had three of the Tigers’ seven hits and both RBIs. Alston had two hits.

On Friday, Cantrell had a pair of hits in a 12-2 six-inning defeat at St. James.

Aaron Cantrell gave up 13 hits and 11 runs — seven earned –– in five innings in the loss.

JUNIOR VARSITY: Freshman Kolby Walker had a complete-game victory in the JV Tigers’ 7-3 victory Monday against Willow Springs.

Devin Coulter doubled twice. Alston, Walker and Austin Keeney each singled.

They were prepared to play and did a great job jumping to an early lead. In a short game, that is important,” HHS assistant baseball coach Ryan Munson said.

On Friday, Houston pushed across a run in the final inning for an 8-7 win at St. James.

Trevor Merckling was the winning pitcher. Coulter had two of the team’s four doubles. Alston and Kaden Miller also doubled.

“It was good to see the boys play a close game and win,” Munson said. “It did a lot for their confidence.”

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