By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Fair Grove, MO—
Two of the top teams in the Mid Lakes Conference faced off at Fair Grove on Tuesday night. Fair Grove shut out Skyline 5-0, backed by the strong pitching performance of senior Rhett Hill. Hill dominated the Skyline hitters by striking out 16 batters and allowing only three hits and two walks. Skyline, ranked sixth in the state in Class 2, was shut down by Hill who only allowed the Tigers to reach second base twice in the game. The 16 strikeouts matched a career high for Hill.
Fair Grove started the scoring in the second inning when, with two outs, sophomore Tanner Lumley stole home after Gabe Taylor drew a walk. Taylor then tried to get into a pickle play, enticing the pitcher to try to get him out. Lumley saw his chance and stole home to give Fair Grove a 1-0 lead.
Hill was on cruise control through the first four innings, allowing three base runners and striking out ten. In the fourth inning Skyline starting pitcher, sophomore Sam Fillipi, allowed the first two Eagle runners to get on base, chasing him from the game. Senior Paden Hodges came in in relief; after allowing a base hit, he struck out the side. After four, Fair Grove held a 3-0 lead.
Fair Grove tacked on solo runs in the fifth and the sixth innings and relied on Hill’s dominating pitching performance. The three hits allowed by Hill were all hit by Hodges. Hodges, in his two innings, struck out five but it was too little, too late for the Tigers as Fair Grove picked up the conference win, 5-0.
Hill was pleased with his dominating pitching performance.
“I just went out and threw strikes,” said Hill. “I kept the ball low in the zone and they couldn’t really do anything about it. My fastball was my best pitch tonight. Throwing strikes, spotting it up, hitting the corners, that’s what works for me. My fastball was moving and it kind of stumped them. Frustrating them is my goal because they don’t really like when they get called third strikes and they don’t want to swing at it.”
Of the 16 batters Hill struck out, 12 of them watched the third strike.
“Their pitcher, Hill, he was on the money tonight,” said Skyline coach Brett Bybee. “He was pounding the outside corner and I’d say most of our strikeouts were on the outside corner. He was hitting that spot and they were giving him that spot, and we didn’t really make very good adjustments at the plate to get up on the plate and cover that outside pitch very well. Give credit to their pitcher, he saw it was working and he kept going back to it. There is no excuse for a backwards K. We’ve got to protect that pitch and we didn’t make that adjustment very good on our side and to his credit, he kept putting it back there. He knew it was working. If he’d have put it anywhere else I think we’d have hit it, but he was putting it right there where we weren’t seeing it and that’s why he shut us down like he did.”
Fair Grove coach Christian Overstreet was impressed with Hill’s pitching performance.
“His best pitch was just throwing strikes,” said Overstreet. “He did command both sides of the plate. The best thing about Rhett is he throws strikes and he gets ahead of the guys in the count. Then he can go to work after that. He’s had a 14 strike out game, a 15 strike out game, and now a 16 strike out game. He’s our man, he’s our horse, and our team believes in him, we believe in him, and it’s a lot of fun just sitting back and watching him pitch.”
As good as Hill was, Overstreet did not want it to be lost that his entire team played a good game against a good team.
“It was a good baseball game,” said Overstreet. “It was fun to coach. I’ve got a baseball team playing really good baseball right now and it all starts with Rhett. When he’s on the mound, we know that he gives us a really good chance to win. He is one of the best pitchers in the area, and he’s throwing like it. We know when we can score early, get him a couple of runs, and play solid defense behind him, we’ve got a pretty good chance to win. We made no errors tonight; we’ve just got guys making plays. It’s a lot of fun when guys are executing, being great teammates, and most importantly having fun playing the game and I thought we did that really well tonight.”
Skyline 0, Fair Grove 5
Skyline 000 000 0 — 0
Fair Grove 010 211 X — 5