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BERLIN -- Hiland overcame a shaky start, spotting visiting Tuscarawas Central Catholic three runs in the top of the first before righting the ship and sailing by the Saints 13-3 in six innings in an Inter-Valley Conference clash Wednesday at Lehman Field in Berlin.
An infield single, a sacrifice and an infield error opened the door and rattled starting pitcher Cam Miller, who walked the next two batters. A fielder's choice and a run-scoring single plated a pair for the Saints who led 3-0 after the top of the first inning. Miller escaped further damage when first baseman Braden Mast snared a hard shot to end the inning.
"We started terribly. I didn't like anything we did in the field in the first inning, from our pitching to our fielding, to the decisions we made," said Hiland coach Tom Gibson, who saw his team improve to 9-0 on the season, 5-0 in the IVC, while dropping TCC to 2-5.
"I'm glad we're not playing tournaments tomorrow, because we had a lot of physical errors today, which is not our brand of baseball," Gibson said. "I'm not going to make any excuses for our guys, but we've only had one practice outside. We've just been playing games. We've talked about how we're going to approach more defensive practices once we get some breaks."
But, as good teams will do, the Hawks put their first-inning woes behind them and answered with five runs of their own, the big blow being a two-run bases-loaded single by Mitch Massaro.
In the home half of the first, Tyson Gingerich drew a one-out walk and stole second and went to third when Andy Miller reached on an error with two outs.
Saints starter Tate Papuga then balked in a run and walked in two more to tie the game at 3-3. Massaro followed with a shot to left field to plate a pair and give the Hawks a 5-3 lead on the strength of one hit.
"Scoring five after they scored three helped," Gibson said. "If we hadn't scored, that would've changed the mood in the dugout, with a little more sense of urgency. We came back to win a game against a team we should beat."
The Hawks strung together three straight hits to open the third inning to open up an 7-3 advantage. Derek Miller and Ryan Hershberger singled and senior outfielder Massaro laced an RBI double to left.
"We shuffled our lineup, moving Mitch (Massaro) out of the four spot. We wanted to relax him a little bit," Gibson said. "We just wanted him to be himself and hit the ball. Hopefully, he'll continue to do that. We know he's a good hitter. He's just been struggling."
Damien Kandel relieved Miller on the mound and put up a pair of scoreless innings as the Hawks added a run in the fourth, three in the fifth and two more in the sixth to seal the deal.
Derek Miller stroked a run-scoring triple in the fourth. The senior reached base all four times, walking twice and singling, driving home three runs to lead the Hiland attack.
He also pitched the final two hitless innings, striking out a pair.
Three straight infield hits and a double steal by Chris Kline and Gingerich led to a run to open the fifth. Andy Miller walked to load the bases, and Mast got hit in the arm to unload them. Derek Miller walked to force in another run, giving the hosts an 11-3 advantage after five.
In the sixth inning, Kline got hit by a pitch and Gingerich singled. Andy Miller walked to load the bases, and Mast singled to score a pair and end the game with the Hawks up 10.
"They hit the ball. Their top four guys can hit," Gibson said of the Saints. "They got some nice swings. We've got to do better. We've still got some work to do."