It felt more like a cold February day than the quarterfinal round of the GHSA 5A State Baseball Tournament when Hillgrove hosted Mill Creek on Tuesday. The Hawks split the doubleheader and will play a decisive rubber match today at 5:55 p.m.
With the wind blowing out to right field during the first game, Mill Creek took an early advantage and scored three runs in the first inning at Hillgrove High School on two home runs from the first three batters.
But junior hurler Tyler Graham calmed down and struck out nine batters in his six innings of work, and Hillgrove picked away at the Mill Creek lead until finally winning the game 6-3.
"In Game 1, Tyler Graham does an awesome job of regrouping after the first three hitters and throws fantastic from the second through the sixth," said Hillgrove coach Dave Richardson. "We did a great job of just battling, battling, taking advantage of some mistakes, getting some big hits here and there, and we played excellent defense for the most part. It was a pretty good high school baseball game."
Hillgrove had to play from behind in Game 2 as well. Tucker Ehmig put a run on the board in the first inning with an RBI double, but Mill Creek exploded in the third inning when six straight batters recorded hits with two outs. Mill Creek scored four runs in the third off ace Ben Lumsden.
"I have to tip my hat to them because they hit Lumsden hard," Richardson said. "And Lumsden hasn't been hit like that all year."
Mill Creek would look over its shoulders all night as Hillgrove, once again, pecked away at the lead, but Mill Creek held on, winning 8-5 and forcing today's Game 3.
"Their backs were against the wall, and they came out and fought, and to our kids credit, they never quit," Richardson said. "They battled, we had runners in scoring position, we popped a three-run homer to get a four-run inning in the fifth, and then we had opportunities in the sixth and the seventh. But we didn't get the big hit when we needed it."
He added: "You have to tip your hat to them because they did an excellent job."