Gamble pays off for Hillcrest in Game 1 vs. Rockwall-Heath

Hillcrest coach Mike Tovar had two lineups heading into Game 1 of the Class 4A Region II quarterfinal series against Rockwall-Heath: one if Heath pitcher Jake Thompson was the starter, and another if he wasn’t.

With Thompson named the starter in the opener of the best-of-3 series, Tovar rolled the dice, going with middle reliever Patrick Eakin — a pitcher who hadn’t started a game all year.

The gamble, in an attempt to save ace Paul Peters, worked out brilliantly. Eakin allowed three hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings, and Hillcrest manufactured enough offense for a 3-1 win Wednesday.

“It all starts on the mound, and that’s what he did — kept us in the ballgame,” Tovar said.

Eakin — facing Heath heavyweights such as Thompson and Jovan Hernandez — admitted to being a little awestruck at the start of the game. He walked the first batter, gave up a double to Thompson, and a sacrifice fly to Hernandez in the first inning to trail, 1-0.

“I was kinda scared coming in to the game, looking at Jovan — although nothing compares to big ol’ Jake,” Eakin said. “I just looked at my coach’s scouting report and threw what he told me to throw.”

Hillcrest (32-5-1) immediately answered, turning a leadoff single by Coleman Waheed into a run. Hillcrest grabbed the lead in the third. Cameron Smith hit an RBI single, and Peters hit a RBI double.

Eakin loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. Tovar then looked to Peters, who got a groundball to end the inning. Peters got the save with a scoreless ninth.

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