Patriots edge Rebels in pitcher’s duel

Published 11:45 pm Friday, April 19, 2013



RESERVE – For the second consecutive showdown with rival John Curtis,  Riverside lefthander Tanner Lawson found himself embroiled in a classic pitcher’s duel with a Patriots hurler – this time with the District 10-2A championship on the line

But while Lawson was nearly untouchable, Curtis’ Evan Hileman was absolutely so on Thursday.

Hileman came one hit shy of a perfect game and struck out nine as Curtis nailed down a 2-0 victory in Reserve, clinching the outright 10-2A crown.

Hileman also hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie. Curtis added an insurance run in the seventh.

“He really won it for us by himself today,” said JCC coach Johnny Curtis.

Said Hileman, “My mindset was just to keep throwing strikes all game. The game was moving quickly and I got into a good rhythm.”

Lawson nearly matched him pitch for pitch, going the complete game and allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks. He struck out seven.

“Nobody expected us to be in this position,” said Lawson. “We played for a district championship today … it was a great game. Evan was great, and we had a pitching battle.”

Both pitchers worked quickly and attacked the strike zone; the game was finished in just over 90 minutes.

“We wanted to beat them by pounding strikes in,” said Lawson. “My defense was playing great behind me and I knew I could just keep throwing strikes.”

Curtis (21-6, 4-1) remains the second ranked team in Class 2A’s power points rankings. Riverside (12-14, 4-2)  is ranked 16th.

With one out in the top of the fifth, Hileman put Curtis ahead 1-0 via a solo home run that just cleared the right field wall and gave his team a charge of momentum.

“It was an outside changeup and I got a bat on the ball. I had no idea it was out, it barely got over,” said Hileman.

Said Riverside coach Matt White, “They got one over the short porch in right to break the ice. Just wish we had done it first.”

Hileman (6-2) retired the first 12 batters he faced before Brandon Hymel hit a chopper up the middle for a single in the bottom of the fifth inning. Mason Vicknair bunted him to second, but Hileman induced two groundball outs to end the threat with Hymel stranded at third.

Curtis added another run in the seventh, though, after Hunter Speer singled up the middle to lead off the inning. Riverside committed a throwing error on an Austin Linden ground ball, bringing Speer around to score.

It set up the nearly exact same scenario of a little over a week prior, where Curtis led 2-0 entering the seventh inning before Riverside scored four runs in the top half for an eventual 4-2 victory.

But there would be no rally this time. Hileman retired the side in order in the seventh and Curtis reclaimed the district championship from the Rebels, who had won it a year before.

“It was a sign of a little growth, I thought,” said Curtis. “We won a lot of close games early this season, then we’d lost a few. Our confidence was a little shaken. But today, we closed the door. It’s really a tribute to Evan on the mound today.”

“He had his great stuff,” said White. “He worked ahead of our hitters all day. On our side, Tanner was unbelievable … but (Hileman) was throwing all of his pitches for strikes. We just never got to him.”

Curtis was fresh off of a 21 run performance in a win over Fisher on Tuesday. But Lawson has found success against Curtis, allowing just four total runs over his last two complete games against JCC.

“It’s strike, strike, strike, and he doesn’t walk many. It’s tough to get a hit on him.” said Curtis’ Spencer Lemoine.

While admitting the loss stung, Lawson (6-4) said that the Rebels are playing at a higher level than it did earlier in the season, after turning over the majority of last season’s state runner-up. Riverside has won four of its last six.

“We’ll peak in the playoffs,” he said. “Once you get there, everyone’s 0-0. You never know what could happen from there.”