By Kedrick Storey
RIPLEY – Houston Hilltoppers coach Scott Gann has preached taking advantage of others team’s misfortunes all season. That message came in handy Friday in Game 2 of their Class 4A best-of-three play-in series against the Ripley Tigers.
Houston scored three of their four runs on three Ripley errors and Hilltoppers starter Clay Hillhouse limited the Tigers to just five hits in a 4-1 win.
Houston (22-6) swept the series 2-0 and will face Cleveland in a best-of-three set to start next Thursday.
“We preach it,” Gann said. “Anytime we get a chance to get runners on and score, especially on mistakes, we’ve got to capitalize on it. That’s a lot of the game of baseball, capitalizing on other team’s mistakes.”
Houston, who won Game 1 4-2 in Houston on Thursday, got on the board in the top of the second when Luke Hancock stole third and scored on an errant throw by Ripley catcher Tucker Childers. Reid Carter, who had one of three hits on Ripley freshman starter Jus Medlin in the inning scored on Garrison Howell’s RBI for a 2-0 Houston lead.
Medlin allowed the first two batters to reach in the third and was lifted for senior Nathan Gaillard. Gaillard pitched a solid five innings fanning five and surrendering just three hits, but his throw on a Howell bunt with two Hilltoppers on in the fifth got away, scoring Hunter Moore and Wes Parker for a 4-1 lead.
“You have to tip your hat to them. They hit the ball hard,” Ripley coach Joel Gafford said. “Sometimes kids kick it around in high school. We fought the entire game. I’m proud of our effort.”
Six of Hillhouse’s seven innings were scoreless as he fanned five. The sophomore got in trouble in the bottom of the fourth after hitting two batters, including Dalton James who stole third on a double steal and scored on an errant throw.
Ripley (17-11) would load the bases with a hit and a walk, but Hillhouse induced a double-play ground ball to escape with just one run allowed.
“He’s a competitor and we knew he was going to come out and give us a good opportunity to win the ball game,” Gann said. “He’s done that all year for us.