Central High pitcher Makhail Hilliard was thrown a figurative curve.
A balk and an error put his Wildcats behind 2-0 before they got the chance to bat.
But Hilliard didn’t panic. Instead, the junior responded with some curves of his own while helping Central claim a 3-2 victory over Dutchtown High in a Tuesday afternoon matchup at Central.
The LSU commitment tossed a two-hitter and struck out six. He retired 14 of the final 18 batters he faced in the game that was part of a nondistrict doubleheader between Class 5A teams. Dutchtown’s Cade Blanchard (3-1) was equally impressive, allowing four hits and also recording six strikeouts.
“I felt like I got stuck in situations I couldn’t get out of a couple of times,” Hilliard said. “So I just threw it down the middle and my defense backed me up. They always back me up. During a game like this, it can take the hitters a few innings to get a feel for the pitcher. Once they did, they came through.”
Hilliard had control issues in the first inning: He walked two batters and brought home the first run with a bases-loaded balk. An error scored the second run for the Griffins (12-7).
Blanchard allowed only one hit and struck out six in the first four innings for Dutchtown.
“We’ve been searching for a good win over a quality team,” Central coach Mike Forbes said. “We’ve been up and down, and we’ve played good baseball throughout. It’s just finding a way to win. We finally found a way to scratch through.”
Cullen Ballard drew a one-out walk to start Dutchtown’s two-run first inning. Payton Stafford then singled for the Griffins, and a wild pitch advanced the runners. Hilliard issued a walk to Cameron Crawford to load the bases.
After a strikeout, the umpires sent Ballard home. They ruled Hilliard had gone to his mouth on the mound and called the balk.
Hilliard got his second strikeout of the inning, but the runner reached on an error, allowing Stafford to score the second run.
Joseph Schoppe’s one-out single in the bottom of the first was Central’s lone hit through the first four innings. Hilliard buckled the knees of a few hitters with his curveball; he used several pitches to keep the Wildcats off balance.
Central turned the tables in the bottom of the fifth: Harris, the No. 7 hitter, lined a single to right-center to lead off. Quint Guerin sacrificed Harris to second, and Brant Guerin walked.
Leadoff hitter Hunter Hebert hit the ball slowly down the third-base line, and Hebert beat out an infield hit. The throw to first went up the right-field line, and two runs scored. Schoppe’s infield grounder brought home the go-ahead run.
“We scratched two (runs across) and were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Dutchtown coach Chris Schexnaydre said. “Cade was throwing well for us but, in the fifth inning, the wheels sort of fell off. As coaches, we have confidence in them; they need to have that confidence in themselves.”
By contrast, it was a boost Central needed.
“This was big for us because we found a way to win it,” Brant Guerin said.
Dutchtown prevailed 1-0 in the second game.