Beginning the 2023 season by setting aside the aluminum in favor of wood worked out well for the Houston High School baseball team.

The Diamond Tigers opened the campaign by winning last Friday in the annual Van Buren Wood Bat Weekend, downing the host Bulldogs 8-2. Houston then beat Cuba 10-0 in a 5-inning run-rule-shortened contest Monday at Tiger Field in the annual State Farm Houston Baseball Wood Bat Classic.

In Monday’s game, the Tigers got what turned out to be the only necessary run in the bottom of the first inning when senior Garyn Hall walked, stole second and went to third on a fly ball, and then came home on an RBI double by junior Wyatt Hughes. Houston added another run in the frame when Hughes scored on an infield single by senior Casey Merckling.

The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the third inning on another walk by Hall, a single by senior Danny Venable and a walk by Hughes, and then scored four unearned runs on a flurry of errors by the visiting Wildcats.

Houston loaded the bases again in the bottom of the fifth inning on two hit batters and a bloop single to left by senior catcher Ryan Wolfe. The Tigers then went ahead 8-0 when junior Aiden Kelly stroked on a 2-run single down the right field line and led 9-0 after a single by sophomore Shaun Buck.

Moments later, Kelly crossed the plate on an error and the game ended thanks to the mercy rule.

HHS junior Aiden Kelly steps on home plate to score the winning run during the fifth inning of the Tigers’ win over Cuba on Monday.

Hughes went the distance on the mound for Houston to pick up the win.

Details from the opener at Van Buren weren’t available.

The Tigers are scheduled to continue play in the Wood Bat Classic by facing Licking on Wednesday (March 22) and Mountain Grove on Thursday (March 23).

Houston (2-0) is scheduled to go back to the metal bats and host Seymour on Monday.

Houston senior Garyn Hall delivers a pitch during a win last Friday at Van Buren.
A new scoreboard with brightly-lit numbers is in place at Tiger Field.

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

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