The Fair Grove Eagles struck early, taking advantage of favorable pitching from Stockton’s Drew Wheeler and scoring four runs in the top of the first inning, en route to a 6-1 Mid-Lakes Conference victory over the Tigers, Wednesday, April 24, at Stockton. The game was postponed by rain the day before.
Josh Thompson led off the game for the Eagles with a single to center field. Cade Gallion drew a walk, then Rhett Hill and Hale Beckley added back-to-back doubles to make it 3-0. Beckley scored two outs later on ground balls to the left side.
Stockton coach Darin Henderson said Wheeler, known for his good control, had trouble keeping the ball down in the early going.
“He was just leaving the ball up,” Henderson said. “It’s not typical of Drew, he just left a couple of pitches up and they hit it hard. That’s baseball.”
“Drew, I’ve seen him for a long time now,” Eagle coach Christian Overstreet said. “We knew what he was going to give us, and sometimes pitchers have a tough time getting down in the zone. When he made mistakes up, we capitalized on that and drew some walks with some competitive at-bats, and things just worked out for us in that first inning.”
Fair Grove (14-4, 3-0 Mid-Lakes) added a run with two out in the fourth as Gallion beat out an infield single, stole second and scored on Hill’s double.
Meanwhile, Hill kept the Tigers (7-7, 1-2) off the scoreboard for the first three innings, only allowing one baserunner on a dropped third strike. The Tigers broke through in the bottom of the fourth as Garrett Haden drew a leadoff walk and scored on Wheeler’s double to the left-field corner.
“We competed well,” Henderson said. “We finally bought into the approach I was trying to do the whole game and we made him [Hill] throw a lot of pitches. That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to take good at-bats, compete and give yourself a chance.”
“Give credit to Stockton,” Overstreet said. “They worked deep in the count. I mean, they got down 0-2, 1-2, but they battled and fouled pitches off.”
The Eagles scored their final run in the seventh as Beckley and Tanner Lumley both singled with one out. After a strikeout to Dylan Long, Austin Sisco drove home Beckley with a base hit to left-center.
Hill gave up three hits to Tate Wheeler, Zack Burns and Tanner Boyles to start the bottom of the seventh, then switched places with batterymate Long, who fanned Cole Garretson and got Tyler Mehl to line into a double play to end the game.
In six-plus innings, Hill scattered five hits, struck out nine and walked one in the victory.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Overstreet said of his starter. “He’s our horse and our game plan every game is score as early and often as we can, because with a guy like him, you get him a lead, he can just put it in cruise control.”
Drew Wheeler went five-and-two-thirds innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, fanning five, walking two and hitting two batters. His brother Tate Wheeler came on in relief and gave up a run on three hits with one strikeout.
Fair Grove 400 100 1—6 10 0
Stockton 000 100 0—1 5 0
Rhett Hill, Dylan Long (7) and Long, Hill (7); Drew Wheeler, Tate Wheeler (6) and Garrett Haden.
Hits: Fair Grove — Josh Thompson, Cade Gallion, Rhett Hill 2 (2 2B), Hale Beckley 2 (2B), Tanner Lumley 2, Austin Sisco, Logan Daniels. Stockton — Garrett Haden, Drew Wheeler (2B), Tate Wheeler, Zack Burns, Tanner Boyles.