Tiller terrific as Rebels top Admirals 5-1

Published 11:13 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sam Tiller filled the strike zone and Boyle County’s offense chipped away at Danville in a textbook 5-1 victory on Tuesday.

The Boyle County ace finished with six strong innings, allowing just five baserunners and one run while striking out seven batters on his way to the win.

“Tiller pitched great tonight, kept us off-balance,” Danville head coach Paul Morse said. “He pounded us inside all night, which we’ve seen nobody do all year. That was different on us. We’ll make adjustments on that. It’s hard to win games only scoring one run.”

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Boyle County head coach Kyle Wynn was thrilled with the way Tiller commanded the strike zone.

“He pitched well for us, the only hard hit he gave up was the solo home run to right,” Wynn said. “But he’s doing what he’s supposed to, pitching with a 5-0 lead. He fills up the strike zone, doesn’t give anyone a free base and made them earn it. He pitched a heck of a game. We did some things offensively to chip away some runs, and when you’re not scoring in bunches, you have to have that shut-down guy on the mound, and that’s what Sam did for us.”

Ethan Wood was on the hill for the Admirals and tossed five innings, giving up three runs while striking out four. He was the lone blemish on Tiller’s ERA, hitting a solo shot to right field in the sixth inning.

Boyle’s damage wasn’t all at once, but the Rebels stayed on top of Wood in their first time seeing the freshman on the mound.

“I thought we had a good approach on him,” Wynn said. “Obviously he’s a talented pitcher, there’s no question about that, and he’s only going to get better. We knew it was going to be a tough ballgame for us and it was. To be able to scrape some runs across, I thought we did a good job working counts, getting on base and getting some steals. We did good things to manufacture some runs. I was pleased with what we did offensively.”

The Rebels scored one run in the top of the first inning: Grant Hotchkiss singled, stole second and was brought in by a groundout to first base from Alex Sergent to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead.

Hotchkiss and Sergent would team up again in the third inning. Cameron Yates got the inning started with a single, then Hotchkiss moved him over and reached base with a bunt single. Ty Dragan also reached base and Sergent hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Yates.

But, despite loading the bases, Boyle only got just one run across the plate to lead 2-0.

Two runs would be enough for Tiller.

Cayden Shaver was close to tying the game in the bottom of the third inning, but a fly ball to center field and wind blowing in pushed the ball to the warning track and Yates was there to make the play.

The 2-0 lead would remain till the fifth, when Hotchkiss reached base for the third time in as many at bats. Dragan reached base on a single to Danville shortstop Preston Barnes, and Barnes’ throw went into the Danville dugout, allowing Hotchkiss to score from third and Dragan to move to second.

Runs like that haven’t always happened for Boyle, but Wynn said his team was opportunistic on the basepaths and did well to chip away.

“A lot of times, we’ve been fortunate to have really good offense so we’d hit around, try to limit our mistakes on the basepaths,” the Boyle coach said. “But tonight, it was a good thing. We were able to get the right guys on base to steal some bases and they were able to get into scoring position. That was a big part of our game tonight.”

Boyle would again load the bases after back-to-back walks from Wood, but a diving catch in right field by Christian Howe got Danville out of the jam.

Tiller again blanked the Admirals in the fifth, and Morse said that in-game adjustments weren’t made as Tiller continued to pound the strike zone.

“I’m proud of our guys. It’s a young group, first time in a big game like that with all those young guys out there and they held their own,” Morse said. “That’s probably the first day that we haven’t hit the ball out of 14 this year. I can’t get on them for that, they’ve been swinging well. We didn’t make many adjustments from early in the game — they pitched us exactly the same in the first inning as they did the in the sixth and seventh. That’s partly young guys not doing those kinds of things, and us as coaches, we’re trying to get them to do that in a game situation. We’ll get better at that, in-game adjustments. That’s a big thing for young players.”

Wood left after five innings, giving way to fellow freshman Jaden Larmour. But Larmour didn’t last long — he allowed two earned runs and only recorded one out.

Jacob Crank finished the game for Danville, recording the final five outs without a baserunner while striking out two.

Morse said he’d like to see Wood’s pitch count — he finished with 100 — go further than five innings.

“Ethan threw the ball well. His pitch count was up, we talked about maybe nit-picking with two strikes and allowing some walks, then we had a couple errors behind him,” Morse said. “It’s not so much the error that hurts you, it drives your pitch counts up. Every error you make costs your pitcher six, seven, eight more pitches in the game. That turns to 100 pitches in five innings from 100 pitches in seven innings. Makes a big difference, especially when you play back-to-back days. But as young as we are, we’re a bit ahead of where we think. Just use this as a learning experience, tomorrow we get to do it again.”

Morse said confidence will stay high for the Admirals — it’s their first loss this month, ending a 11-game win streak — with game No. 2 against Boyle today.

“I think you’ve got to keep that confidence high,” he said. “We’re keeping it high mainly because we shouldn’t be in the game. They’re starting six or seven seniors, we’re starting four or five freshmen and an eighth grader. Just go out there and compete, get better, that was our goal when the season started. We want to be good in May, that’s what we’re striving for. Whether it’s a district game or if we’re just playing a regular midweek game, we’ve got to work on the things that our guys have to do to be better baseball players come postseason time. They’ve been doing that so far. We play again tomorrow, I’m really liking the way the district is set up. We can come out tomorrow and get better again.”

Wynn and the Rebels can cement their spot at the top of the 45th District with a victory today.

“It’s just like district tournament, you can’t sit and be comfortable about what we did tonight,” he said. “We feel good about it but obviously tomorrow is another day, they’re a good ball club. Trying to get that second win against the same team in two days, that’s tough. But if we can take care of business tomorrow, it’ll have us set up in a good spot in the district as we head into this last series.”