Hillsboro is quietly getting back to full strength.
Junior Tyler Crandall returned to the lineup two weeks ago after missing most of the season following thumb surgery after basketball season.
Fellow junior Max Stockwell played his first game of the season last week.
Stockwell was one of four Tigers to double as Hillsboro played one of its better games of the year to defeat SBC champion Bangor 4–3 in the SBC finale last Thursday.
Junior Tommy Crandall (5–3) struck out eight, walked two and allowed just one earned run on six hits in seven innings to earn his fifth win of the season.
Hillsboro improved to 7–12 overall and finished 6–8 in the SBC, tied for fourth place with Royall. Bangor fell to 15–5, 12–2.
Stockwell doubled in the bottom of the third inning in his first at-bat of the season and came in to score the game’s first run on a double by senior catcher Matt Stekel.
Tommy Crandall followed with an RBI double to make it 2–0.
Bangor tied the game in the top of the fifth on a two-run double by Luke Reader.
Crandall struck out Bailey Langrehr for what would have been the third out of the inning, but a passed ball allowed Langrehr to reach extending the inning. Seth Zabel singled before Reader’s double.
Hillsboro bounced back in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runs to regain the lead.
Ethan Thorson singled then advanced to second on a fielder’s choice.
With first base open, Bangor intentionally walked Crandall. After both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, junior Hunter Stanek drove in both runs with two-run double.
Bangor pulled within a run in the top of the seventh on a Zabel lead off double and a Zack Johnson sac fly, but Tommy Crandall struck out Andrew Piske to end the game.
“We are excited to be where we are right now,” said Hillsboro first-year coach Ryan Budnik. “Our win-loss record probably isn’t what we had in mind, but we are finally healthy and playing well. We feel we match up very well with Bangor and went in confident we would play well. Tommy Crandall on the mound always gives us a shot to win. Tommy pitched well and offensively we finally got that big hit in key situations, a couple of times, something that has eluded us most of the year.”
Hillsboro 7, Royall 5
The Tigers blanked Royall (8–13, 6–8) last Monday and by virtue of back-to-back wins in their final two games earned the second seed, a first-round bye and a second-round home game in their six-team regional.
The WIAA Division 4 playoffs begin Tuesday. Hillsboro will host the winner of Tuesday’s first-round matchup between No. 3 Royall (8–13) and No. 6 New Lisbon (4–13) on Wednesday.
Hillsboro will close out the regular season Thursday with a non-conference game at Reedsburg.
“One of our goals going into the season was to get one of the top two seeds and avoid having to play that extra playoff game,” added Budnik. “Getting Max (Stockwell) and Tyler (Crandall) back is huge. We still have a lot to work on, but our guys are feeling good about themselves right now. Being able to throw Tyler into the rotation makes us four deep at pitcher. If we play solid defense behind them and continue to hit the ball the way we have been recently we should compete with anybody.”