Altoona just needed a break, and it got it in the third inning when Hollidaysburg shortstop Brett Hileman collided with Golden Tiger center fielder Tanner Claar, allowing Chris Sinisi's popup to bounce off their gloves, scoring two runs and opening the door for the Mountain Lions to back into the game.
"I came in the next inning after that. I told Tanner it was my fault. Coach told me it was my fault,'' Hileman said. "I took responsibility.''
Hileman did more than that. He took it upon himself to make it right.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Jaret Berardinelli slides into second safely as Hollidaysburg’s Chris Storm applies the tag.
Hileman doubled in his next at-bat, scored the go-ahead run and then shut down the Lions in three innings of relief as the surging Tigers got some measure of payback for two earlier losses to Altoona, 7-4, in Central Penn League High School baseball on Wednesday night at Mansion Park.
"It feels good,'' said Hileman, who was 2-for-2 with two doubles and scored three runs in addition to striking out six and allowing just three baserunners in his stint on the mound. "We're rivals. We're always going to be rivals. It just felt good. We were all ready to play.''
Claar and Chris Storm also had two hits each for the Tigers, with Storm driving in three runs and Claar scoring three times. After opening the season 1-3, Hollidaysburg moved over the .500 mark at 8-7 by winning for the fourth time in five games.
"We've been getting outstanding starting pitching,'' Hollidaysburg coach Jon Szynal said of the reason for the Tigers' turnaround. "Our starting pitching has kept us in games where we've gotten some leads. Secondly, we've been getting some hits with runners in scoring position, some timely hitting.''
That was the winning formula again on Wednesday. Junior lefty Dom Viduya only allowed five hits and one earned run in the first four innings, and Andy Crum came up with a two-out, two-run single in the sixth to give the Tigers some breathing room.
Six of Hollidaysburg's runs scored with two outs. The only one that didn't was the eventual game-winner Hileman scored in the fifth. After Altoona tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on Ben Wyland's RBI single, Hileman laced the first pitch from Christian Helsel the next inning to the fence in left-center.
"I said 'Just shake it off' [after the popup error],' and everything was fine after that,'' Hileman said.
Hollidaysburg was aided when Hileman advanced to third on a fouled check swing the umpires thought was a wild pitch; Storm then singled to center to plate Hileman.
Altoona only managed six hits off Viduya and Hileman as it slipped to 8-3. Wyland had two singles.
"We had to battle back the whole game,'' said Altoona coach Tom Smith, whose team trailed 4-0 after two innings. "We're struggling offensively. We have to find a way to produce some offense. We've been winning ball games, but we haven't been producing offensively.''
Helsel and Sinisi combined to strike out 15 Tigers and only allowed eight hits themselves. The teams could meet for the fourth time this season if both reach the finals of the Ron Fiochetta Tournament on Saturday - Altoona won the first two meetings, 9-8 and 7-3.
"We're figuring it out,'' Hileman said. "We're getting ready for playoffs. We're in playoff mode right now.''
HOLLIDAYSBURG (7): Claar cf 432, Burger 3b 310, Hileman ss-p 232, Crum dh 401, Viduya p 000, Baum ss 000, Storm 2b 302, Ford 1b 301, Miller c 400, Urban cr 000, Gallagher rf 400, Russell lf 400. Totals - 31-7-8.
ALTOONA (4): Oswalt cf 300, Fink 1b 321, Helsel p-ss 301, Lombardo c 400, Negri cr 000, Wyland 3b 312, Green lf 210, Sinisi 2b-p 300, Arnold ph 000, Stayer rf 301, Chesney ph 100, Berardinelli ss 301. Totals -28-4-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Hollidaysburg220 012 0-7 8 2
Altoona003 100 1-4 6 3
E-Stayer, Berardinelli, Hileman 2, Lombardo. LOB-Hollidaysburg 9, Altoona 10. 2B-Hileman 2. RBI-Storm 3, Hileman 2, Stayer, Wyland, Crum 2. SB-Claar 2, Hileman 2. CS-Arnold.
Hollidaysburg: Viduya (W)-4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO; Hileman (Sv)-3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO.
Altoona: Helsel (L)-5 IP; Sinisi-2 IP
HBP-By Viduya (Fink). WP-Viduya 2, Helsel.
Records: Hollidaysburg (8-7); Altoona (8-3).
Umpires: Bob Buck (plate); John Garritano (bases).
JV: Altoona, 9-8.