After posting two nice wins last Friday at the Alton Bank Classic in Alton, the Houston High School baseball team ran into trouble on Saturday.
Seeded second in the 8-team event, the Diamond Tigers beat No. 7 Viola (Ark.) 10-3 in the first round and then topped No. 3 Twin Rivers (of Broseley, Mo.) 6-2 in a semifinal contest, both on Friday. But in Saturday’s championship game, Houston was blanked by top-seeded Gainesville, 10-0.
Viola took 2-1 lead in the first inning of the first game, but Houston went ahead with 3 runs in the bottom of the third frame before adding 3 more in the fourth and another 3 in the fifth.
Junior Garyn Hall led the Tigers’ offense again, going 3-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, 4 runs scored and 5 stolen bases.
HHS junior Casey Merckling had another big outing with the bat, going 3-for-3 with a double, 2 RBIs and a run scored, while senior Wiley Sisco bashed a 2-run double during a decisive third inning rally.
After a bit of a rough start on the mound, Houston junior Danny Venable settled in and held Viola batters at bay until being relieved with 1 out in the fifth inning. Venable gave up 5 runs (3 earned) during his stint, while striking out 5 and issuing 3 walks.
Sophomore Aiden Kelly finished the game, allowing no runs and no hits while fanning 2 and walking 1.
The Tigers jumped on Twin Rivers early, taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Junior Ryan Wolfe got things going with a 1-out double and scored on a double by sophomore Stone Jackson. Sophomore Wyatt Hughes had an RBI single in the frame and Houston got another run on an error.
Hughes went 2-for-2 at the plate with a walk, an RBI and a run scored. He also started on the mound for the Tigers and went 5 full innings, allowing no earned runs while scattering 8 hits, striking out 3 and walking none. Sisco worked the sixth and final frame, allowing no runs on 1 hit, while fanning 1 and walking 1.
Saturday’s final game was scoreless until Gainesville (6-1) took control with 4 runs in the bottom of the third inning and added 5 more in the fifth. The Tigers’ offense produced only 3 hits against the Bulldogs, while the pitching yielded 8 hits (including 2 home runs) and 9 walks.
HHS head coach Brent Hall said his team played good overall baseball on Friday.
“We pitched it well, our defense was better and we put the ball in play more consistently which resulted in more runs,” Hall said. “It was an improvement.”
Hall said the score in Saturday’s loss wasn’t indicative of the way the game went.
“We had way too many walks,” he said. “When you give up free bases like that, and they get a hit or there’s an error here and there, somebody’s on base when that happens and that’s when they score runs.
“But they were just better than us that day, there’s no doubt about that.”
Houston had two runners thrown out at the plate in the contest.
“They went on ground balls like they were told to,” Hall said. “That’s just baseball.”
FLEDGLING VS. ESTABLISHED
On Tuesday of last week, Houston routed an overmatched Bradleyville squad 16-1 at Tiger Field.
The Tigers recorded 8 hits and were walked 9 times in the 3-inning run-rule shortened contest.
Hall went 2-for-2 at the plate with a double, a walk, 4 RBIs, 2 runs and 3 stolen bases, while Hughes went 2-for-3, driving in 3 runs and scoring 3.
Freshman Shaun Buck pitched the first and second innings for Houston, allowing no hits and no runs while striking out 6 and walking 1. Jackson worked the third frame, allowing 1 run on no hits, a hit batter and 3 walks.
Bradleyville’s baseball program is in its second year. The Eagles are still looking for their first-ever win after going 0-15 last year and starting this season 0-4. Last year, the Tigers won at Bradleyville, 25-0.
Houston (6-3 through last week) is No. 8 in the latest Class 3 state rankings. The Tigers were scheduled to begin South Central Association conference play Monday at Mountain Grove, but the game was postponed due to wet conditions. Weather permitting, Houston will open SCA play Thursday (April 7) at Thayer and be in the field this weekend at the Plato Spring Tournament (which includes Cabool and Newburg).
HHS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
(through April 2)
(min. 15 at-bats)
Hall – .556
Merckling – .381
Hughes – .333
Jackson – .333
Wolfe – .333
Hall – 10
Jackson – 7
Merckling – 7
Hughes – 6
Kelly – 6
Hall – 15
Wolfe – 9
Hughes – 6
Jackson – 6
Merckling – 4
Venable – 4