Posted: Wednesday, 22 May 2013 9:01PM

Hartville tops Billings to reach 1st Final Four



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The Hartville Eagles (17-4) are headed to the Final Four in baseball for the first time ever after a 9-5 win over Billings in the class 2 quarterfinals Wednesday in Hartville.  The Eagles reversed their fortune this spring after falling to Clever by the same score in last year’s quarters.

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“There are no words for this feeling,” said senior pitcher Drew Ince who pitched a complete game for his 9th straight win.  “We made history here today.  My freshman year we didn’t win a game the whole season.  That’s a heck of a comeback.”

After falling behind 1-nothing in the first inning, Hartville answered with four runs in the 2nd keyed by senior Hunter Simmons’ 2-run bases loaded single.

Matt Keith added an RBI single while another run scored on an error to make it 4-1.  Seth Hensley hit a solo home run in the 3rd to stretch the advantage to 5-1.

Billings cut the lead to 5-4 in the 4th with Dakota Baxter’s 2-run single, but that was as close as the Wildcats would get.  Hartville plated four insurance runs in the fourth to seal the victory, capping a long road back from dropping 34 straight games earlier in their career.

“We might have been the worst program in the state and we’ve just gone up hill from there,” said 11th year Hartville coach Joe Garrison.  “It’s just a testament to these guys saying we’ll do better.   We just try to do things right.”

“It was hard,” said Ince, one of five seniors who’ve stuck it out since the streak.  “You didn’t know what it was like to win until our sophomore season.  It’s hard, but it takes dedication.  We all stuck together and I’m so glad we did because I wouldn’t want to play with any other club.

Billings senior Austin Essick finished his impressive prep career with a solo home run in the 7th; the 43rd of his career, tying the state record.  He went 3-3 with a pair of stolen bases while pitching most of the game in relief.

“Austin had a heck of a last game,” said Billings coach Allen Stolte.  You couldn’t ask for a better performance from him and a career as a high school baseball player.”
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Essick, also an all-state basketball player.  “I wish I had a couple more games to break it.”

Hartville next faces Holcomb (21-7) Tuesday in the class 2 semifinals in O’Fallon.  They will play Wednesday in either the 3rd place game or championship.

Photo Galleries

Pictures: Rockwood Summit JV vs. Parkview


RS beat Parkview 4-0 in the Kickapoo Shootout.

Pictures: Kickapoo JV vs. Carl Junction


CJ wins 9-0, advancing to the Brown Division semifinals of the Kickapoo Shootout.

Pictures: Forsyth 12, Billings 2


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