HICKORY FLAT - The Hickory Flat Rebels concluded their season last Saturday night with their 3-0 loss to West Union, as the Eagles claimed the second round playoff series 2-0.
On Game 1 last Friday, West Union dismantled Hickory Flat 18-3 in just three innings. The Eagles used 13 hits and seven Rebel errors to pull away.
In last Saturday's rematch, The Eagles plated two runs in the first inning, capitalizing on a Hickory Flat error for their first run and Dylan Gates hit into a fielder's choice for the second. The Rebels tried to answer in the bottom of the first as a pair of singles from brothers Chris and Clayton Smith loaded the bases with one out. West Union's Cole Phillips struck out the next two Rebels to leave the bases full.
From there it was all Phillips as he went the distance, allowing just three hits and striking out 11 in the win.
"The biggest thing tonight was we dropped a ball in right field in the first inning that scored a run for them," Hickory Flat head coach Andy Dillard said. "Last night, we dropped about seven fly balls in right field and (West Union) hit the ball pretty good. We hit the ball last night. We had three runs and two hits early on but we didn't get to play very long because of bad baseball. Tonight, Cole Phillips did what Cole Phillips does. He's the type of guy when we loaded the bases in the first inning, if you don't come through, he's not going to give you another chance."
The Rebels only other hit came in the fifth inning on another single from Chris Smith, as he finished the game 2-for-3. On the mound, Smith came in relief, pitching 3.2 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four.
Hickory Flat ends their season at 13-10 with their second round exit in the Class 1A Baseball Playoffs.
"We knew when the season started, if you're going to do anything you're going to have to go through West Union, Smithville, TCPS and Pine Grove," Dillard claimed on the season outlook. "We knew those four were going to be the teams we were going to have to beat. We did get a win over Pine Grove and played them close twice. I felt like we always had a chance. We are probably a player or two away from being right there with these guys."
As Dillard still searches for another player or two compete at an even higher level, he will have to find a way to replace four seniors who have produced in his program for a long time.
Clayton Smith, Ty McGregor, Paxton Work and Tyler Bryant each donned the red and blue for the last time last Saturday.
"When we first got here, those guys were in seventh grade," Dillard said. "I think the year before that (Hickory Flat) had won like three or four games. The year before that it was one game, from what I understand. And those guys are directly responsible for three 10-win seasons. When we first won 10 games, we beat Ingomar one time, we beat West Union, people were surprised. Apparently in the past, that was a roll over. Now, pretty much everybody knows when you get us, we might have a let down game here and there, but if you see us you're going to have to come ready to play.
"We've come a long way and we have a long way to go. But those seniors, most of them started in eighth grade, and some in seventh grade and they are why we've come to where we are. I'm hoping that when we look back a few years from now we'll see that those guys started all of this."