BY CHAD DARE
In high school baseball, each team has 21 outs to score as many runs as possible.
On Friday afternoon, the Westville Tigers used some of their outs to score runs.
Junior left-fielder Adam High successfully executed a suicide squeeze bunt in the Tigers’ three-run first inning and against in their three-run third.
His two RBIs helped Westville defeat Hoopeston Area 7-5 in a Vermilion Valley Conference baseball contest.
“Even if we’re not hitting the ball really well, we can still get the bunts down and score runs that way,’’ High said. “It helps our offense produce more runs.’’
Westville coach Joe Brazas is quick to point out that the Tigers are not a home run hitting team as they hit only one in 17 games this season.
“We are just trying to score runs any way that we can — whether we are stealing a base, using the hit-and-run, going with a squeeze bunt or even a double squeeze,’’ Brazas said. “There are times that we do get an extra-base hit, but we’re not a team that is going to rely on those extra-base hits for our offense.
“Those are the cards that we have been dealt, and we’ve been pretty successful playing them that way this year.’’
With the win on Friday, Westville improves to 10-7 overall and 7-3 in the Vermilion Valley Conference.
And how does a player like High feel about being the guy that is called upon to sacrifice for the team?
“It’s fine, because it helps my RBI total and it shows that coach has faith in me to get the bunt down and get runs on the board,’’ he said.
Brazas admits that he has confidence in almost every batter in his lineup to get the bunt down in those situations.
In addition to the two successful squeeze bunts, which actually resulted in three runs because of a Hoopeston Area throwing error, Westville also got a run home on Tyler Dicken’s sacrifice fly to center in the fourth.
The Tigers got four of its seven runs on sacrifices.
“If you can move a baserunner with less than two outs, that’s what you want to do and they did it well with bunts,’’ Hoopeston Area coach Carl Heuer said. “They definitely took advantage of the bunt situations and they are really good at it.’’
And early on, the Cornjerkers (3-11 overall, 3-4 in the VVC) took advantage of some walks from Westville starter Austin Milholland.
Hoopeston Area jumped out to a 3-0 lead with Connor Cline and Kendal Walder drawing bases-loaded walks followed by a run-scoring groundout by Ehtan Linder.
“We knew (Austin) could do better,’’ Brazas said. “I just had confidence in him, because I knew he was a better pitcher than he was showing.’’
The best thing for Milholland was the Westville offense responded with three runs in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 3-3.
“We jumped out early and whenever you jump out early like that, you want to go out and put a zero up,’’ Heuer said. “And when we gave up three runs, our kids looked at each other, like what just happened.’’
High, who tied the game at 3-3 on his first squeeze bunt, admitted it was a big momentum change.
“Everyone was down after giving up three runs in the first,’’ he said. “Coming back with three of our own just lifted everyone’s confidence.’’
The Tigers took the lead for good with a three-run third and they added another run in the fourth.
Hoopeston Area still had opportunities as the Cornjerkers had at least one baserunner in every inning, but they wound up having three runners thrown out on the bases and they left nine runners on base.
“We been preaching about getting those clutch hits, and we’ve been preaching about being aggressive with two strikes,’’ Heuer said. “We are still looking for those clutch hits.
“Hopefully, it’s something we can start doing this next week.’’
Both teams are in action today. Hoopeston Area hosts Paxton-Buckley-Loda, while Westville has a make-up game at Milford.