The Hillsboro Indians traveled to Miami Trace High School on Monday and battled the Panthers with a chance to clinch the Frontier Athletic Conference championship but, came up short after allowing Miami Trace to score four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 9-6 conference loss.
Luke Magulac started on the mound for the Indians but was unable to corral the Panthers and was replaced in the bottom of the third inning after allowing five runs on three hits, striking out three and walking five.
Ethan Humphries pitched three and one-third innings for the Indians, allowed four runs and walked two as he took the loss.
The Indians drew first blood against the Panthers in the top of the third inning when Humphries opened the inning with a free base after being hit by a pitch and then scored later in the inning on a hard ground ball single to left field that scored Humphries from second base and gave Hillsboro a 1-0 lead.
Magulac was able to get consecutive batters out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first and retired the side in the bottom of the second inning before a disastrous third inning that saw him walk three consecutive batters before being relieved by Humphries who promptly gave up a three RBI double that gave Miami Trace a 5-1 lead.
Hillsboro looked to rally in the top of the fourth when Ryan Scott and Magulac opened the inning with back to back singles and Tanner Warner loaded the bases with a walk in the next at bat.
Humphries recorded a sacrifice fly in the ensuing at bat that scored Scott from third base.
Grant Crum followed up with a fielder’s choice that saw him safe at first and Magulac safe at home to bring the score to 5-3.
Scott and Magulac were back at it in the top of the fifth inning when they recorded back to back singles to load the bases with one out.
Humphries was able to tie the game with two outs on a fly ball single to right field that plated Brennen Priest and Scott and tied the game at five runs apiece.
Hillboro took the lead in the top of the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly ball that scored Crum,who had doubled in the first at bat on the inning, to make it 6-5 in favor of Hillsboro.
Humphries was able to get the first batter in the bottom of the sixth to ground out to Magulac at third before allowing a walk, a single and a walk in back-toback-to-back at bats to load the bases for the Panthers.
A fielder’s choice in the next at bat saw the lead runner for the Panthers caught at home when Crum fielded the ball and threw home.
The Pathers then used a double to clear the bases in the ensuing at bat to make it 8-6 and added an insurance run with a line drive RBI single to center field that made it 9-6.
Hillsboro was unable to get anything going in the top of the seventh as Ryan Harless, Humphries and Watson went down in order to bring the game to a close.
The win marked the end of the FAC schedule for the Panthers who earned a chance to be Co-Champions with the Indians courtesy of a 7-3 league record including a six game conference win streak after starting the season 1-3.
Hillsboro sits at 7-2 in FAC play this season and have one league opponent left on the schedule when they take on the McClain Tigers at Shaffer Park in Hillsboro on May 6 in a game that was originally scheduled to take place on April 12.
The Indians control their own destiny and are guaranteed at least a share of the FAC title. With a win over the Tigers next week Hillsboro will finish with an 8-2 record and the outright FAC crown but a loss will drop the team to 7-3 and into a tie with the Panthers at 7-3.
Ryan Applegate is the Sports Editor for The Times-Gazette. Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.