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Hillsboro knocks off defending champ Francis Howell in new coach Lucas debut

Francis Howell senior lefthander Ben Holsclaw cuts loose a delivery toward home plate during the Vikings season opener at Francis Howell High School on Friday, March 17. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]



Francis Howell Coach Tony Perkins had to face old friend Kevin Lucas in Lucas’ coaching debut on Friday as Hillsboro High paid a visit to the Vikings.

Perkins, who has won four state titles in his storied career, has seen his share of these games in his time in the Vikings dugout.

For Lucas and his club, facing the defending Class 5 champions did not seem to faze them much.

Hillsboro pushed across a  run in the second inning when Nick Schmidt scored from third off a passed ball by Vikings catcher Garrett Payne. Schmidt doubled and had reached third off a wild-pitch by Howell starter Ben Holsclaw.

Hillsboro starter Brandon Whitehead and closer Nick Warren made that one-run lead stand up as they held Howell to one hit and picked off four Vikings baserunners  as Hillsboro won 1-0 in the opening game of the Troy Tournament for both teams.

“It was real nice to have a good friend of mine get his first coaching win against me,” Howell coach Tony Perkins said. “I knew when he got the job that he would make them better because he does a good job with the fundamentals and they (Hillsoro) did fine.”

What wasn’t fine for the Vikings was poor baserunning, which kept them from scoring.

“That was the game,” Perkins said. “We didn’t do a very good job running the bases plus we didn’t hit. I really felt like we could have scored at least three runs.”

Whitehead had a big hand in keeping the Vikings off the scoreboard as he was virtually unhittable the first four innings. The senior righthander worked the zone with a fastball and moved pitches in and out of the zone to keep the Vikings off balance.

“I mixed my pitches in and out of the zone to keep them on their toes and I knew my defense was behind me and let them handle the rest,” Whitehead said.

“Whitehead gave exactly what we wanted him to give us,” Lucas said. “He’s our ace and we’ll go as far as he takes us this season.”

Howell had a great chance in the bottom of the fifth to score but Warren, who came on in relief, pitched around a walk to Kyle Grantham and stranded Grantham at third with two-out by inducing a fly out to center by Chase Goulet.

Hawks catcher Nick Carter gave their defense a big boost by throwing out Vikings runners at first in the second inning and then at third base in the third frame.

“That takes a little bit of pressure off the defense and the defense can relax a little bit more with no base runners on,” Lucas said.

The Vikings came to the plate but went quietly as Warren struck out the side to close things out.

Howell will look to get back on track on Saturday in the tournament when they face Francis Howell North at 9 a.m. and Fort Zumwalt North at 2 p.m.

“They’re good kids, they work hard and we have a lot of things to work on, but we’ll figure it out,” Perkins said.




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