Hardcastle’s big night lifts Oak Hill to big conference victory over Mississinewa

Most people know Oak Hill senior Aidan Hardcastle for his prowess on the wrestling mat. He is, after all, the only two-time semi-state champion in the illustrious history of Oak Hill wrestling.

Turns out, he is a pretty good baseball player, too.

Behind a three-hit, six-RBI performance from Hardcastle, Oak Hill recorded its second CIC victory of the season in dominant fashion, defeating Mississinewa 14-4 in a five-inning, run-rule affair.

Hardcastle set the tone in the first inning, hitting a grand slam to deep center field, and finished a triple short of the cycle in a 3-for-3 night at the dish.

“He’s a competitor,” Oak Hill Head Coach Shane Edwards said of Hardcastle. “He wants to win, and guys will follow him. He is a grinder and a team guy.”

Hardcastle followed his grand slam with an RBI single in the second inning, before capping off his monstrous offensive night with a double in the fourth frame.

“I’ve been seeing the ball really well lately,” Hardcastle said. “At Western I went 0-for-3, but all of it was solid contact. I knew if I came in with the same approach, I’d do well. It was a great day.”

As a team, Oak Hill combined for 11 hits, scoring at least three runs in four of the five innings and taking advantage of five Mississinewa errors. Along with Hardcastle’s offensive outburst, Evan Pearce finished 2-for-3 with three RBI, while Sam Stefanatos drove in a pair of runs on two singles.

“We are putting together some quality at-bats,” Edwards said. “We are getting fortunate with some balls to drop, but we are squaring balls up and being confident.”

Of Oak Hill’s 14 runs, seven came with two outs, and the Golden Eagles collected a plethora of timely hits with runners in scoring positions throughout the evening.

“We were finding ways to get on base, even with two outs,” Edwards said. “When everybody is hitting, you just trust the guy behind you to find a way to get on.”

Furthermore, Oak Hill’s defense, a liability at times earlier this season, was much improved against the Indians. After committing five errors against Eastbrook in its first conference contest, the Golden Eagles committed just one against Mississinewa.

“Our defense is starting to pick it up,” Edwards said. “That’s where you are seeing a little bit of difference in our play – our defense is making plays. Defensively, we are coming along.”

After a shaky second inning in which he gave up three runs on three hits, Tyler Rennaker found his groove, allowing just one hit and one run in the final three frames to improve to 4-0 on the season.

In a complete-game performance, Rennaker allowed four hits while striking out one.

“Mississinewa is a good team and a good hitting team,” Edwards said. “With the wind blowing like this, to only give up four, that’s tremendous.”

After Hardcastle gave the Golden Eagles a 4-0 lead, the Indians battled back with three runs in the second inning. Landry Rock, who finished with two of Mississinewa’s four hits, crushed a towering two-run shot to left-center field, before Holden Brown scored Carson Campbell with an RBI single.

However, that was as close as the Indians would get. Oak Hill responded with four more runs in the bottom of the second inning and controlled the contest the rest of the way.

“That’s something we have to work through,” Mississinewa Head Coach Mike Scott said. “We have to learn how to grind out at bats. We have to learn how to grind out situations. We have to learn how to hit back after we’ve been hit and stand tall in those moments.”

After Pearce hit a two-run single to start the second frame, Stefanatos and Hardcastle followed with back-to-back RBI singles, increasing Oak Hill’s lead to 8-3.

Stefanatos and Hardcastle recorded back-to-back RBI hits again in the fourth frame, before Hardcastle scored on an error to make it 11-3.

Mississinewa got one run back in the top of the fifth, but Oak Hill closed out the contest in the bottom of the frame fifth with three more runs. Pearce plated Mark Sevier with another RBI single before scoring on a bases-loaded walk, and Keegan Deaton ended it with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Oak Hill (11-3, 2-0 CIC) will head to Alexandria on Thursday for another conference showdown against the Tigers, while Mississinewa (5-7, 0-2 CIC) will square off against Frankton.

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