- 1 of 3 Photos | View More Photos
NEW CONCORD -- Hiland brought its hitting sticks to the Div. III Eastern District semifinal at Muskingum College on Monday against River, banging out 14 hits in a 12-2 run rule victory after five innings.
The win improves the Hawks to 26-0 on the season and sends them to Wednesday's Eastern District championship against Tusky Valley, which blanked Fort Frye 6-0 in its semifinal. By press time, Wednesday's site had not been determined.
Hiland tore the cover off the ball in the first inning, scoring seven times before getting an out.
Braden Mast used that first-inning cushion as a comfort zone on the hill, tossing a one-hitter at the Pilots.
Chris Kline lined a single to left and Tyson Gingerich tripled him home before scoring on a passed ball for a 2-0 lead. Bryan Yoder doubled, and Ryan Hershberger singled him home. Back-to-back walks to Andy Miller and Mitch Massaro loaded the bases,
Mast promptly unloaded them with a two-run single down the third base line and a 5-0 lead. He took second on the throw in from the outfield.
Cameron Miller reached on an error by the shortstop, scoring Massaro, moving Mast to third, and ending the day for Pilots' ace Lukas Isaly.
Reliever Chase Wachterman plunked Derek Miller, and a fielder's choice knocked home the seventh run of the inning.
"The way we came out and hit the ball in the first inning, those were all hard-hit shots," said Hiland coach Tom Gibson. "There were no gimmes. They helped us some, but we helped them some, too. You can't make your pitcher throw that many extra pitches.
"We had two defensive plays that should've been made that weren't made. Against a team like this, it doesn't hurt too bad, but versus a quality team going forward, they could make you pay with a big number, so we can't let that happen again."
River took advantage of a pair of walks by Mast and some shoddy plays in the field to plate a pair in the top of the second inning on one hit, a leadoff single by Wachterman.
A walk and a fielder's choice loaded the bases with nobody out for the Pilots. Mast induced a ground ball to first, but catcher Bryan Yoder couldn't hang on to the throw home by first baseman Cameron Miller for an error. A walk forced in the second run, but the Hawks got out of the jam when a bloop fly to right turned into a rare 9-3 double play, as Massaro's throw to Miller beat the runner back to first.
The Hawks added an unearned run in the second inning on Massaro's RBI double, and made it 10-2 in the third with two more runs on two walks and a pair of singles by Andy Miller and Massaro.
"We put the ball in play. I think we only had two strikeouts," Gibson said. "I'm very happy with the way we came out hitting the ball. Braden was 3 for 3 and he struggled pretty much through the middle of the year. And the last three games, he's been ripping the ball.
"Hershey (Ryan Hershberger) has been hitting the ball hard, Bryan's (Yoder) been hitting the ball hard, so we've got a lot of guys who are hopefully started to find it and time it up at the right time," he continued. "I'm happy about that going forward. Hopefully they'll keep it going and we'll be all right."
Mast continued his dominance on the mound, striking out seven, but walking three and hitting a batter in the five-inning win. The senior allowed just the second-inning hit.
"I just wanted to throw strikes, keep it low, and mix it up," Mast said. "I try to keep them off balance and hopefully get outs."
Mast kept the River hitters guessing with his curveball, but he didn't have his usual precise command.
"Being tournaments, a win is a win, but I was a little disappointed in myself, walking three and hitting a batter," Mast said. "I thought my control was off today. I've got to work on that and get back to it.
"That big first inning really helped me settle in a little bit," he added. "The second inning wasn't my best inning, but having that big run cushion really helped. I was throwing strikes and not really worrying too much."
Singles by Massaro and Mast led to Hiland's final tallies. An error put them on second and third, and a wild pitch plated Massaro, with Mast scored the game-ending run on a bunt single by Derek Miller.
The Hawks pounded out 14 hits off a pair of Pilots pitchers. Massaro and Mast had three hits each and two hits apiece from Gingerich, Yoder, and Hershberger. Gingerich had a triple and Massaro and Yoder each doubled.