Glory in the annual Hilmar baseball tournament was up for grabs in a game between Turlock Christian High School and Hilmar High School Thursday night – the culmination of a three-day tournament that saw both teams successfully face off against some stiff competition.
Hilmar, which entered the tournament 5-5 overall and 0-2 in league play, beat Dos Palos High School 13-8 on Monday and defeated Mariposa 14-13 on Tuesday before their final game against the Eagles on Thursday.
Turlock Christian had been undefeated prior to the tournament, boasting an 8-0 record, and they continued their winning streak with a victory in their first game of the tournament on Tuesday, defeating Gustine High School 11-10. The Eagles were handed their first loss of the season Wednesday night, when Ripon High School beat them 9-2.
Hilmar had a chance to go 3-0 in the tournament and tie Ripon’s record during Thursday night’s game, but their loss to Turlock Christian by a score of 9-4 meant the Eagles took home second place in the tournament.
“Turlock Christian is a great program…their team does the little things right all the time,” Hilmar coach Bobby Swedberg said. “They hit the ball really well and hit it where we weren’t, and their pitcher kept us off balance.”
Lefty pitcher Liam Jones, a junior, went 6.1 innings for the Eagles, allowing just two hits and one earned run while striking out four.
“Not only is Liam a lefty, but he also throws a hard knuckleball. That’s somewhat rare,” Turlock Christian coach Bill York said. “He’s got a lot of movement when he’s on.”
Heading into the matchup, both teams knew what to expect thanks to a scrimmage between the Eagles and the Yellowjackets played earlier in the season, which ended in a tie. York anticipated a close game, remembering that Hilmar is a team that often puts the ball in play thanks to their aggressive nature at the plate.
After scoring 27 runs in their first two games, however, Hilmar’s offense was cut short by Turlock Christian.
“It’s hard to stay hot three games in a row offensively, and especially when you see a lefty with the ball coming at you at a little bit different of an angle,” Swedberg said. “He did a great job at quieting our offense.
Turlock Christian sophomore Howie Skinner was 3-4 in the game with a double, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored, and junior Micah Blomenkamp went 3-4 with an RBI and a double. Freshman Will York, junior Ethan Fisher and Jones all had RBIs, too.
York was proud to see his team come back and win after suffering their first loss of the season.
“Mentally, they never backed down, even when our defense was a little shaky,” York said. “They were able to get passed it and keep playing.”
After this week’s play, Hilmar is 7-6 overall and Turlock Christian is 10-1. The Eagles will play Sierra Ridge Academy on Tuesday in San Andreas, and the Yellowjackets will face off against Hughson at home on Wednesday.