Hillard has brilliant day as Bobcats win District baseball title

By DOUG DONNELLY

OTTAWA LAKE – Levi Hillard lived a Whiteford athlete’s dream Saturday.

The junior had a walk off hit in the first game to lift the Bobcats to a 4-3 win over Britton Deerfield then struck out 14 Summerfield while pitching a no-hitter in the finals and pitched the Bobcats to the Division 4 District championship.

“I just wanted to go out there and do my job,” Hillard said. “After missing last year and everything, it meant a lot to us to come back this year and win districts. It was a great day.”

The Bobcats improved to 21-9 with the two wins Saturday and will host the Regional semifinal game at 4:30 Wednesday against Plymouth Christian.

Hillard’s day was a lot like the Bobcats season. He started off slow at the plate, had a frustrating strikeout in the third inning, but came through when it mattered most. With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Bobcats loaded the bases. Carter Ruehle led things off with a single, Shea Ruddy was safe on an error while trying to bunt Ruehle to second and then the Patriots changed pitchers and intentionally walked freshman slugger Logan Tammerine.

On the second pitch he saw from Gavin Schroen, Hillard hit a clean single to left, scoring Ruehle and ending the game.

“My first three at-bats I struggled a little bit,” Hillard said. “When I came up to bat in the seventh, I just wanted to come through for my team. When I saw that fastball down the middle, I just hit it.”

Ruddy had two hits in the first game while Hillard, Luke Rasor, Cole Giesige, Austin Wynn, Cole Crouch, Luke Masserant and Ruehle had the other hits for the Bobcats. Tammerine and Wynn also had RBIs.

Eric Parriett was the winning pitcher after coming in relief of Giesige, who allowed just three hits and one run over the first five innings.

Whiteford didn’t need any late-inning heroics in the second game, thanks to Hillard. Not only did he keep Summerfield’s hitters off balance all game, he also doubled and scored the first run of the game to put the Bobcats in front for good.

“I thought he pitched a heck of a game,” said Summerfield coach Al Gilson. “I had not seen him before, but he really threw well against us.”

The Bulldogs got to the final by beating Taylor Trillium 16-1 in the first game. The Bulldogs scored two runs in the first, five in the second, three in the third and six in the fifth. Ethan Eyler had a single, double and triple, Devin Albain had three hits and Brock Olmsted had two singles. Eyler threw a no-hitter on the mound, giving up an unearned run.

Summerfield finished the season 8-14.

“It was a fun year, coaching with Darrell (Polter) and Reid (Olmstead),” said Gilson, a longtime Summerfield coach in his first season as the head baseball coach. “I didn’t really know what to expect from the kids. We only had four people coming back with any varsity experience.

“We got better and improved as the season went on. We’re pretty young. We have some good eighth-graders coming along, but it will take some time.”

The Bobcats will play a top 10 team Wednesday in Plymouth Christian.

Whiteford started the season 0-5 but won its fourth district under head coach Terry Pant and first since 2017.

“I’m happy with where we are at,” Pant said. “We saw two really good pitchers Saturday in Nico (Johnson at BD) and Olmstead. We won’t see many pitchers that good the rest of the way in Division 4. We just have to go out and hit and field and play our game.”

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