One has to tip his baseball cap to Pana’s left-handed pitching ace Lane Funneman as at least the best the Hillsboro Hiltoppers have faced in the 2021 baseball season after his performance on Monday, June 7, when he pitched his Panthers to a Regional championship over the Toppers.
Pana won 4-2 as Funneman struck out 19, (all of the outs he recorded), allowing Pana to add the regional title to the South Central Conference crown they already held. Funneman left the mound with one out in the seventh because of his pitch count, not because of an offensive threat. He fanned all nine of the Toppers he faced at least once. Dillon Smail struck out in the first, then walked and scored in the fourth before singling in the sixth. Everyone else was a victim at least twice -- two batters fanned three times).
The walk to Smail leading off the fourth was the only pass Funneman issued; Jace Tuetken, Blaze Helton, and Deklan Riggs had the other three Topper hits. Tuetken’s single to right in the fourth came on the lefty’s 51st pitch, and Riggs’ two-out single scored Tuetken. Smail had scored on a wild pitch, but he had to dive head first to break the shutout. (The backstop at the Pana diamond isn’t far from the plate.)
Riggs, a freshman left-hander, took the mound loss for the Toppers, surrendering all the runs in the first three innings. The speed of Brenden Schoonover was a factor in the first as he doubled and scored a two-out single by Drew Hackler, who collected three of the host’s nine hits. In the second Riggs’ control deserted him with two outs. He walked four Panthers in a row, with Austin Puckett scoring while Bryce Bieber collected the RBI. In the third Hackler doubled and scored on a double by Bo Christer (who retired two batters in the seventh to earn a mound save). Christer scored on a passed ball.
Riggs pitched into the fifth when the pitch count nemesis caught up with him. He had six strikeouts to his credit, but the six walks and seven hits he allowed meant he was in almost constant pressure as he pitched. The Panthers left eight runners on base against him.
Gavin Matoush pitched shut-out ball over the last inning and a third to keep the game close; a sparkling double play in the sixth helped. Schoonover doubled leading off; batting behind him, Bieber hit a long fly to deep center that Hayden Grosenheider caught.
Schoonover tagged and broke for third; Grosenheider’s throw to relay man Drake Vogel was cut off as Schoonover tried to return to second, where Vogel’s throw to Smail just beat him for the tag-play out. One will attend many high school games without seeing that type of execution.
Now 17-4, the Panthers (coached by former Panama native and HHS baseball/basketball athlete Mike Malisia (who played college baseball at Greenville University) moves on to sectional play against Sacred-Heart Griffin.
Hillsboro’s season stats. will be published in The Journal-News in the near future.
June 7 at Nokomis
Hillsboro 000 200 0 2 4 1
Pana 112 000 x 4 9 1
Hillsboro IP R ER H K BB
Riggs 4.2 4 4 7 7 6
Matoush 1.1 0 0 2 2 0
Pana IP R ER H K BB
Funneman 6.1 2 2 4 19 1
Christer 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
Multiple Hits: Pana - 17 3-4, 10 2-3. 2B: Pana - Brenden Schoonover 2, Drew Hackler 1, Bo Christer 1. Runs: Hillsboro - Dillon Smail 1, Jace Tuetken 1. RBI: Hillsboro - Deklan Riggs 1.
Records: Hillsboro (12-10); Pana (17-4).