HHS junior first baseman Colton Stewart prepares to catch the ball for a put-out of Hartville senior Hunter Lowery during the second inning of the Tigers' loss in a Class 3 District 9 Tournament game Monday at Hartville. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

The 2022 season came to a conclusion for the Houston High School baseball team on Monday, as the Tigers were defeated by Hartville, 6-4, in a Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 3 District 9 Tournament semifinal game at Hartville.

“We just didn’t get it done,” said HHS head coach Brent Hall. “But’s that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Neither team scored for the first 3 1/2 innings, as Houston junior Garyn Hall and Hartville junior Dakota Stigall were locked in a pitcher’s duel.

HHS junior Garyn Hall delivers a pitch Monday at Hartville.

The second-seeded and host Eagles then got on the board with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning after Stigall lined a 2-out single to center field and then scored all the way from first base on an infield single by senior Hunter Lowery. Stigall kept motoring around the bags as the ball eluded Houston gloves and trickled untouched for an extended period in the dirt on the left side of the infield.

The No. 3 Tigers turned the tables and took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning. The rally began when Stigall hit sophomore Aiden Kelly with a pitch to lead off the frame, and junior Danny Venable followed with a single to right field.

Hartville head coach Clint Horn then brought in his ace pitcher, Brody McNiel. The 6-3 junior promptly struck out the next two batters, but then gave up an RBI single to Hall to tie the score. Before the third out was recorded, Venable crossed the plate after the second of two passed balls and Houston held the lead.

HHS junior Danny Venable slides safely into home plate to score a run during the fifth inning of the Tigers’ loss in a Class 3 District 9 Tournament game Monday at Hartville.

Unfortunately for the Diamond Tigers, the Eagles regained the advantage in a hurry in the bottom of the fifth with 4 straight hits before the first out. Senior Isaac Boyer led off with a solo home run to left field to knot the score a 2, and after a pair of singles, sophomore Grant Culver knocked a double down the right field line to put Hartville on top, 3-2.

Before the inning ended, the Eagles added 3 more big runs on only 1 hit, and Houston never recovered.

The Tigers kept battling and added 2 runs in the top of the seventh inning. After loading the bases with no outs on singles by sophomore Stone Jackson and Venable and a walk to Kelly, Jackson scored on a fielder’s choice and Venable came home on a single by senior Wiley Sisco.

But before any more damage could be done, Houston ran out of outs.

The Tigers ended up with 6 hits in the contest (all singles), with Venable going 2-for-3 and scoring a run.

Hall started on the mound for Houston and went 5 innings, allowing 4 earned runs on 8 hits, while striking out 9 and walking 1. Sisco worked the sixth inning in his final high school game and gave up a hit and a walk while fanning 2.

HHS sophomore Stone Jackson takes a cut while batting during the second inning of the Tigers’ district tournament game Monday at Hartville.

The Tigers committed several errors that allowed Hartville players to take numerous extra bases.

“We didn’t hit the ball well early like I thought we would,” Coach Hall said. “And then we made a few costly errors that gave them runs. They played cleaner than us and got a few more timely hits, and that was the difference.”

The Diamond Tigers finished the campaign with an overall record of 15-7 and went 4-2 in South Central Association conference play. Sisco (a catcher and pitcher) is the only player the squad will lose to graduation.

“At the beginning of every season, the end goal is always to be in the district championship and go deep into the playoffs,” Sisco said. “Well, that wasn’t how it ended for us this year. Our record still is very good, and there are a lot of bright spots to look at. Coach Jeff Richardson and our pitching staff put together a terrific year. I felt blessed to be able to be behind the plate catching all of them. There was time the team struggled at the plate, but we did what we had to do to win.

In his final high school game, HHS senior Wiley Sisco looks toward the plate before delivering a pitch during the sixth inning of the Tigers’ loss to Hartville in a district tournament semifinal contest Monday at Hartville.

“Myself, I enjoyed being a leader and guiding several younger players to fill into different roles to help them be comfortable for next year. Nevertheless, you can never be satisfied, no matter what you are a part of, but I’m leaving my last year as a part of the ball club knowing that I have helped my team in several different ways.” 

Coach Hall completed his 25th season at the helm of Houston baseball.

“It was a success in some ways,” he said, “and disappointing in others – I’m not going to lie about that. We all could have been a bit better, myself included. But it wasn’t due to lack of effort or anything like that, it just didn’t happen for us.

“I think we’ve got a little higher expectations for ourselves than a lot of people have; the season wasn’t unsuccessful, we just didn’t get to where we wanted to go.”

“My HHS baseball career has definitely been a ride,” Sisco said. “From the summer of my freshman year going to team camp in Georgia, to winning the district championship in 2019, having COVID take away my sophomore season, winning the SCA conference in 2021 – with the best winning percentage ever in Houston baseball – and even having the most memorable season I could ever be a part of my senior year.

“Playing for coach Hall has been my honor, and I will always tell anyone who ask that I got to play under the best baseball coach around. I wouldn’t trade all these memories and life lessons for anything, and I would go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Hartville (15-7) advanced to take on top-seeded Licking in Tuesday’s district championship game. The Wildcats (17-4) earned a spot in the final with an 8-1 win over No. 4 Mansfield on Monday. Mansfield (7-12) made the semifinals thanks to an 11-1 trouncing of No. 5 Liberty (6-12) in a first round game last Saturday.

The Diamond Tigers’ roster this season included 6 juniors and 10 sophomores.

“We’ll have a veteran-laden team next year,” Coach Hall said. “A lot of these teams that beat us this year had a lot of kids who were a year older. That will be a bonus for us; I know we’ll put in the work, we just have to develop a champion’s mentality.

“In a lot of ways, we do things that prepare us to play at that level. Sometimes it’s just getting into a situation and getting it done.”

To view a photo gallery from the Tigers’ district tournament game against Hartville (with the option to purchase photos), click here.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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