Hill leads Ravens in 6-0 upset over Eagles

 

SMYRNA — Twelve days ago Justin Hill was on this same Smyrna High baseball field and was one out away from a complete game shutout.

Hill brought that confidence into his start on Tuesday and shut the Eagles down.

This time he did get the complete game shutout, leading 15th-seeded Sussex Tech to a 6-0 upset over No. 2 Smyrna in the second round of the DIAA baseball tournament. The Ravens (12-8) advanced to play seventh seed Middletown on Thursday at a time and place to be determined.

“He just picked up where he left off,” said Smyrna coach Mike Henderson. “He made the pitches that he had to, kept us off balance and we couldn’t get a hit to fall when we needed to. We couldn’t even get on the board so he was very impressive against us the last two outings.”

Hill scattered five hits along the way and retired the last seven batters he faced.

He didn’t rely on the strikeout that much, striking out five, but kept pounding the zone, with just one walk, and relied on the defense behind him.

“I think our defense definitely did a lot of the talking for me,” Hill, a senior, said. “I think as a team, we played really well.”

Hill only ran into trouble once.

The Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with back-to-back singles by Nolan Henderson and Brandt Penuel before Jared Gillis reached on an error. After a mound visit, Hill needed one pitch to induce a comebacker for the final out of the inning.

“He’s our senior leader,” said Sussex Tech coach G.L. Jefferson. “He’s a kid who day in and day out, it doesn’t matter if it’s on the baseball field, the football field or in the classroom, he’s going to give you his best effort. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, he’s a kid you can trust and it’s going to be a sad day when he leaves. We’re just lucky to have one more game with him and all of our seniors.”

Hill took a tough-luck loss in a 3-2 extra-inning game against Smyrna on May 12. Smyrna tied that game with two outs in the seventh on a misplayed flyball and eventually won on a walkoff hit in the ninth with Hill pitching all nine innings for Sussex Tech.

He got more run support this time around thanks in large part to a four-run top of the fourth.

Luke Oliphant had the big blow in that inning with a RBI-double down the leftfield line with the bases loaded which drove in a pair for a 3-0 Sussex Tech lead. Cole Collins added another double which also scored two a few batters later.

Collins got the Ravens on the board an inning earlier with a RBI-single.

“Hitting is contagious,” Collins said. “Just kept putting people on base and kept getting hits, that’s all it was.”

Hill helped himself with a single that plated a run in the top of the sixth.

Sussex Tech was one day removed from a 3-2 victory against local rival Sussex Central on Monday in the first round. The Ravens are in the state quarterfinals despite losing three of their first four games of the year and suffering a four-game losing streak in the latter part of the regular season.

“We knew all along that we had the talent to do it,” Jefferson said. “We just had to get everything to click at the right time. … It’s finally all starting to come together. Baseball is a weird sport.”

Smyrna was led by Henderson who went 2-for-3 and Ryan Seymour who was 1-for-2.

The Eagles wrapped up their year at 15-4.

“You don’t want to lose but that’s not your typical 15-seed,” Henderson said. “No shame in losing to that team. We’ve got our heads high.”

 

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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