After earning a share of this season’s South Central Association championship, the Houston High School baseball team still had five nonconference games on the schedule before playing in the Class 3 District 9 Tournament.
The Tigers – No. 6 in this week’s Class 3 baseball rankings – won the first three of those contests, routing Summersville 16-5 in a Tuesday road game and then prevailing twice at home, beating county rival Licking 5-2 on Saturday and defeating Hartville 5-1 on Monday.
HOUSTON GETS REVENGE
The victory over Licking avenged a loss in the second game of the season, one of only two suffered by the Tigers so far.
Houston struck early, tallying 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning.
The Tigers loaded the bases with 1 out in the frame with a rally including singles by sophomore center fielder Ryan Wolfe and senior catcher Cody Allen, and senior shortstop Alex Castleman being hit by a pitch from Licking freshman starter Silas Antle. Houston then scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Trevor Mitchell and RBI singles by sophomores Danny Venable and Colton Stewart.
The Tigers added a run in the third inning when Venable doubled to right field and ended up scoring on an error. Houston then went ahead 5-0 in the fourth frame when Allen smacked an RBI single to left field.
The visiting Wildcats (8-8 after the loss) reduced the deficit with RBI singles in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Houston’s infield came up big with rally-stopping double plays in top of the third and seventh frames. The first began when sophomore pitcher Garyn Hall snagged a sharp come-backer and tossed the ball to Castleman at second base, who then relayed it to Stewart at first. The second was a classic 6-4-3 version, with Castleman, Venable and Stewart hooking up for the play.
Castleman had a whopping 7 chances at short in the contest.
The Tigers notched 9 hits, with Wolfe, Allen and Venable getting 2 apiece.
Hall went the distance on the mound to record the win, allowing 6 hits while striking out 5 and walking only 1. Antle took the loss for Licking, allowing 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 5 innings of work, while fanning 2 and walking 3.
LOFTY RECORD NO OBSTACLE
Hartville came to Tiger Field on Monday with a record of 20-2 and left with a mark of 20-3.
As has been the case for several weeks, the Diamond Tigers had stellar performances on the mound and in the field, and their offense did everything necessary to win.
Freshman Wyatt Hughes showed the depth in Houston’s pitching rotation and earned the win by allowing only 3 hits and 1 run in 6 innings, while striking out 8 and walking only 1. Castleman worked the seventh frame, allowing a hit and striking out the side.
The Tigers took control of the game early, scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning with a rally fueled by an RBI double by Castleman. Houston added a couple more runs in the fifth frame before Hartville finally got on the board in the top of the sixth.
Wolfe went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored twice, while Stewart was 1-for-3 and drove in 2 runs.
Against Summersville, Houston scored in all 5 innings of the run rule shortened contest, putting 3 runs on the board in the top of the first frame and then adding 3 in the second, 4 in the third and 3 more in both the fourth and fifth.
The Tigers had 11 hits in the game, and took advantage of 9 walks issued by Summersville pitchers and 5 errors committed by Wildcats fielders. Castleman went 3-for-4 at the plate, with a double, 3 RBIs and a run scored, while Venable continued a hot streak with the stick by going 2-for-3 with 2 doubles, an RBI and 2 runs.
Venable started on the mound for Houston and worked 2 innings, while Allen pitched the next 2 and Wolfe threw in the final frame.
The Tigers’ rock-solid defense didn’t commit an error in any of the three victories and the team’s pitchers combined to allow only 8 runs on 18 hits, while striking out 25 and issuing a mere 5 walks.
“In the last three games, we’ve really fielded the ball well and thrown a lot of strikes,” said head coach Brent Hall. “We continue to get better on that end.”
In building a stellar 15-2 record (6-1 SCA), one of the Tigers’ best traits has been the diversity of player involvement.
“During the course of this year, everybody has made a contribution in winning a game or two,” Hall said. “It’s been nice; it seems like it’s different people every game.”
Winners of 6 straight games, the Tigers host Plato on Friday (4:30 p.m. start) and wrap up the regular season by traveling to Mansfield on Tuesday.
“The kids are really stoked about what’s going on right now,” Hall said.