WEST UNITY — Hilltop didn’t have to do very much to seal a walk-off win in the eighth inning.
After an error in the field, which put Zakk Horton on third base with no out, and back-to-back intentional walks, Connor Schlosser was poised to get a game-winning hit. As it turned out, he didn’t need to do anything.
A passed ball scored Horton from third, as Hilltop staved off elimination with a 7-6 win over Stryker at Hilltop High School in the loser’s bracket of the ACME Sectional Tournament.
“I told them our motto is, ‘A win is a win, no matter how ugly or pretty,’” Hilltop coach Isaac VanArsdalen said. “A win is a win, you count it. You look back at the stats 20 years ago and you say ‘Oh, they beat Stryker,’ but nobody knows the story. A win is a win.”
While it wasn’t the flashiest win for the Cadets, they were able to rally multiple times throughout the afternoon as they never let the Panthers jump ahead by a large margin.
In the sixth inning, with Hilltop down two, Jay Garrett stole home on a two-strike count with two outs to cut the lead to 6-5. On the next pitch, Stryker committed a balk and the tying run scored to knot the game at six apiece.
“We talked about it the inning before when Jay was on third, he was like, ‘I don’t know, coach, I think I can get it,” VanArsdalen recalled. “I said if you’re gonna do it, we might as well do it.”
In just two pitches, Hilltop had tied the game at six. But for Stryker, it was a game of inches.
“The play that really turned the table was stealing home,” Stryker coach Kent Holsopple said. “I thought that was questionable, I questioned it. Umpire said he made the tag, he said he was sure. We probably got a call earlier in the game that might’ve been questionable for us. It’s baseball.”
Max Wonders started for Stryker and held Hilltop at bay, at least in the hitting department. He was plagued by walks and hit batsmen, though, and was taken out after the Cadets tied the game at three.
Despite scoring seven runs, Hilltop had just seven hits.
“Max is a great competitor, he’s a senior-to-be,” Holsopple said. “This is his first go-round at pitching, he didn’t pitch at all in the spring. He’s an athlete and I told him, ‘We want to see you do your best,’ and he did his best. After a while, his control wasn’t really there so we had to get Joe (Ramon) in to right the ship.”
Opposite Wonders was Garrett, who threw the first inning and a third for the Cadets, but was pulled in favor of Chase Whitman. Garrett re-entered the game, however, and pitched out the duration to earn the win.
“I was greedy and I was hoping that we could run Jay out there for three innings and he could get by on his pitch count,” VanArsdalen said. “Couldn’t do that, but you’ve got to win today, though. Jay was the option after Chase. Chase had some pretty quality innings, though.”
Garrett had a successful day at the plate, too, with two hits, a hit-by-pitch and an intentional walk. Kaiden Clendenin added an RBI, as did Schlosser.
For Stryker, Gavin Campbell had a single and a pair of RBIs and Wonders had two hits of his own, but it wasn’t enough offense to put Hilltop away.
The Cadets will play today at 5 p.m. in Bryan against Edgerton, which beat North Central 14-1. The winner of Hilltop-Edgerton will then play immediately after at 7:15 p.m. against Edon.
“We’ve just got to get hot batting, that’s what kept us in the game today, offense” VanArsdalen said. “Defense will come along, hopefully.”