HHS senior Austin Goetz belts a 3-run triple during the second inning of the Tigers' run-rule victory over Thayer in an SCA game Monday at Tiger Field. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Outscoring the opposition 34-4 in three games, the Houston High School baseball team won the Plato Spring Tournament last weekend.

The Tigers opened the tournament with a 7-0 victory over Crocker on Friday and then secured the tournament crown on Saturday with a 15-0 blanking of Newburg and a 10-4 win over host Plato. Houston also went 3-0 and won the tournament last year.

HHS senior Ryan Wolfe had two home runs in the win over Crocker, including a 2-run shot to center field in the second inning and a solo round-tripper in the sixth, also to center field.

The Tigers had 11 hits in the game. Senior third baseman Casey Merckling had 3 singles in 4 at-bats and scored twice, while Wolfe went 2-for-3 with 4 RBIs and 3 runs. Juniors Stone Jackson and Aiden Kelly each had 2 hits in the contest.

After senior Garyn Hall pitched the first inning for Houston and struck out 2, sophomore Shaun Buck worked the next 6 innings, allowing 4 hits while fanning 7 and walking only 1.


The Saturday game against Newburg ended in 3 innings, as the Tigers scored 10 runs on 9 hits in the bottom of the third to lead by 15 and invoke the run-rule.

HHSA junior Grayson Mitchell delivers a pitch during the Tigers’ shutout victory over Newburg last Saturday at the Plato Spring Tournament.

Junior Grayson Mitchell started on the mound for Houston and worked all 3 innings, not allowing a hit while striking out 5 and issuing 3 walks.

The Tigers compiled 14 hits in the win, with Hall and Kelly smacking 3 apiece.


Host Plato led 2-1 after 2 innings of Houston’s second game on Saturday, but the Tigers scored 3 runs in each of the third, fourth and sixth innings to secure the tournament title.

Jackson went 4-for-4 at the plate with a triple and 4 RBIs, while Merckling went 3-for-4 with a double, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

Houston took the lead for good at 4-2 when Jackson belted a 2-run triple in the top of the third, and then built a larger advantage as the game went on.

Hall started on the mound for the Tigers and worked 2 innings, not allowing a hit or a walk and fanning 4 of the 6 batters he faced. Senior Danny Venable pitched the next 2 innings and Kelly worked the last 3, both allowing 4 hits and 2 earned runs.


The Tigers’ tournament games were sandwiched between two South Central Association home games, as Houston fell to Mountain Grove last Thursday, 6-3, and blasted Thayer on Monday, 22-0.

Against Mountain Grove, the Tigers fell behind 5-0 before scoring 3 times in the bottom of the sixth inning on a 2-run single by Kelly and a sacrifice fly by senior Austin Goetz.

Houston had 5 hits in the contest, but matched that total with 5 errors. Kelly went 2-for-3 at the plate with 2 RBIs, while Jackson, Merckling and junior Wyatt Hughes each had a hit.

Hughes started on the mound for the Tigers and threw 101 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, allowing 6 hits and 5 earned runs while striking out 11 and not issuing a walk. Kelly finished up in relief.

HHS junior Aiden Kelly slings a sidearm pitch in relief during the Tigers’ loss to Mountain Grove last Thursday.

Monday’s contest with Thayer lasted only 2 ½ innings before being halted by the mercy rule.

Houston scored 6 runs in the first inning and 16 in the second, sending 10 batters to the plate in the first frame and 21 in the second.

Four Bobcats’ pitchers combined to allow 10 hits, issue 9 walks and hit 3 batters in the contest, while Thayer fielders committed 6 errors.

Hall pitched all 3 innings for Houston, not allowing a hit while striking out 7 and walking none. He also went 3-for-4 at the plate, with a triple, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, 3 runs and a stolen base.

Goetz banged a 3-run triple to left-center field just before scoring on Hall’s 3-bagger and went 2-for-3 with 4 RBIs and 2 runs, while Kelly went 2-for-2 with a walk, 4 RBIs and 2 runs.

HHS senior Garyn Hall dives safely back to firts base on a pick-off play during the Tigers’ SCA home game last Thursday against Mountain Grove.

After the loss to Mountain Grove, the Tigers have gone on a rare offensive run, outscoring the opposition 56-4.

“We’re swinging the bat better than we ever have,” said head coach Brent Hall. “We’ve got a pretty strong lineup, and they’re all on the same page right now.”

Houston’s stellar hitting of late has been accompanied by consistently solid pitching (including two 3-inning no-hitters).

“That’s to be expected,” coach Hall said. “That’s been one of our strongest attributes. I wouldn’t say the offense is a surprise, because I knew we could do it, but that’s what we’ve needed to do to improve our overall team.”

The loss to Mountain Grove could actually have been beneficial in some ways, coach Hall said.

“I think it might have woke us up a bit,” he said. “We had a lot of mistakes defensively, and in high school baseball you’re going to make those mistakes. So how do you make up for that? You outscore them. You’ve got to make up the runs you gave up and you do that by swinging the bat.”

Whether they’re winning or losing, the current bunch of Tigers never wavers from a team-first, family-oriented mentality.

“They’re the closest-knit bunch of kids I’ve ever had,” coach Hall said. “They would rather be out there playing than doing anything else. It’s a blessing to have kids like that; it doesn’t happen all the time.”

Including a home game against Norwood on Tuesday of this week, the Tigers endured their busiest stretch of the 2023 schedule with games on five-of-six days.

“When you get out there and play a lot, you kind of get into a groove,” coach Hall said, “and I think we’re there right now.”

Houston (11-3, 1-1 SCA through Monday) travels to Mountain View Thursday for a key SCA matchup with Liberty and hosts county rival Cabool in another conference battle on Monday.

HHS baseball team players and coaches gather with the first-place plaque last Saturday after winning the Plato Spring Tournament

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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