BY JOHN DUBOIS
Playing for just the second time in the last two weeks the Schlarman Academy Hilltoppers used an opportunistic offense to support the pitching of Riley Jones and blew open the game late in a 13-3 win over the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils.
The senior went 5Ð innings striking out 13 while walking 3. Senior Dalton Dieu closed out the game for the Hilltoppers who move to 5-8 overall and 5-1 in the Vermilion Valley Conference.
“We don’t expect 13 strikeouts from our starters and we will of course take that any day,’’ Schlarman Academy coach Jason Woodworth said. “Riley struggled a bit early and threw a lot of pitches. The mound has a different slope at Bismarck than you see at a lot fields, but Riley battled and kept us in the game early.’’
It took the Hilltoppers nearly a month to finally play more games than they have had postponed due to the weather.
“We had some rust to shake off and that effected us early in the game on defense,’’ Woodward said. “We have a long way to go, but we are starting to learn.’’
A bright spot for the Blue Devils was the pitching of freshman Dylan Dodd who went 4Ï innings striking out nine while walking four. He did allow four runs on two hits.
“Dylan pitched well,’’ Bismarck-Henning coach Michael Packard said. “He came through in some big spots in the game and overcame some arm issues early on to throw some solid innings. He has shut down some good opponents this year.’’
Chase Swinford led the offense for the Blue Devils going 3 for 4 with and RBI.
“Chase has made some really nice adjustments at the plate,’’ Packard said. “He can adjust during at-bats and has fought through to get some nice hits.’’
The Blue Devils took the lead in the bottom of the first on a run-scoring single from Swinford, but the Hilltoppers answered in the top of the second on a run-scoring hit from Ned O’Brien.
The Blue Devils would regain the lead in the bottom of the second on an RBI single from Clayton Gutteridge, but an error and an RBI sacrifice bunt from Mason Combs in the top of the third would give the Hilltoppers a 3-2 lead they would take into the fifth inning.
The Hilltoppers would score four runs in the top of the fifth, two in the sixth, and added four more in the seventh.
Schlarman Academy only had five hits in the game but the Hilltoppers were able to effectively use the sacrifice bunt while drawing 10 walks and they also benefited from two errors and a hit batter.
Combs had three RBIs, with Mason Gard and Austin Calhoun adding two RBIs each.
“We have been struggling to execute our offense,’’ Woodward said. “We have eight new guys on the team, but we are getting better and it takes time to figure out how to fit everyone together into the right roles.
“Overall I’m pretty happy. We are right there at 5-1 in the VVC. We found a way to get a win today, but we have nothing to do but to continue to improve.’’
The Blue Devils had been idle all of last week because of the weather.
“We had six hits early which was good, but we couldn’t capitalize on the scenarios we gave ourselves to score runs,’’ Packard said. “We couldn’t come through early, and then the game got out of hand.’’
Both teams return to action Wednesday.
Schlarman Academy plays at Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman; while Bismarck-Henning hosts Milford.