POTTSTOWN — With a starting lineup that includes six underclassmen, Hill School baseball coach Chris Drowne has seen a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly thus far this spring.
Unfortunately for the Blues, the latter two were apparent too often in Saturday afternoon's Mid-Atlantic Prep League encounter with traditional rival Lawrenceville.
The visiting Big Red pounded out 16 hits and took advantage of six Hill errors en route to a 13-2 victory.
Lawrenceville (4-1 MAPL, 6-4 overall) also got a stellar effort from starter John Vasiliu, who fired four innings of three-hit shutout ball while striking out eight.
Jack Overholt was 2-for-4 for the Blues (2-4, 3-8), who could manage just a RBI fielders choice from Quin Butler in the fifth inning and an RBI single from pinch-hitter Pete Cleveland in the final frame.
Three-hole hitter Matt Tola went 3-for-5 with two doubles, three RBI and three runs and Lorenzo Lagones was 3-for-5 with two runs for Lawrenceville, which broke open a 5-1 lead with a two-run sixth before putting it away with six unearned runs in the seventh.
"They found a lot of holes; they didn't hit a ball hard until the last inning,' lamented Drowne. "And we gave up a bunch of (nine) unearned runs. With two outs they found a hole. With two outs we didn't put the ball in play.'
The Blues got off on the wrong foot in top of the first, when the Big Red struck for three runs against starter Jack Hogan.
With one out and the bases loaded, Hogan got Vasiliu to bounce right back to the mound for what appeared to be a tailor-made double play. But the throw to second sailed into center after some apparent miscommunication of who was covering, and two runs scored. Sam Waugh followed with an RBI groundout to make it 3-0.
Lawrenceville tacked on an unearned run in the second (courtesy of two Hill errors) before Jeff Zhao (2-for-5, three RBI) doubled in a run in the fifth to extend the lead to 5-0.
The Hill finally began to seriously threaten in its fifth, after Big Red coach Champ Atlee yanked Vasiliu (4-1) — who had thrown six innings earlier in the week — for reliever Sean Cuskley, his top pitcher last year. But Cuskley struggled, and wound up walking the bases loaded with one out.
Butler's fielders choice got the Blues on the board before Cuskley issued another walk to re-load the bases and eventually left the game with 1-1 count to Overholt after apparently injuring his arm. Atlee wound up summoning starting catcher Chris Euell to the mound, and he escaped further damage with a strikeout.
"I'm sure Chris (Drowne) would say the same thing, but I think that was the turning point,' Atlee said. "For us to get out of that inning with only one run, it was a big sigh of relief.'
"We chased a ball out of the zone to end the inning and got ourselves out,' said Drowne. "It's a credit to them. They made every play they were asked to make, and we didn't put enough balls into play to challenge them more.'
From there, things quickly headed south for the Blues.
Tola doubled in a run and scored on Euell's single in the sixth to put Lawrenceville up 7-1. Then the wheels fell off in the seventh, when two more Hill errors set the stage for a six-run uprising highlighted by Tola's two-run double and Zhao's two-run single.
Hogan gutted it out for six innings, allowing 13 hits and seven runs (four earned) while striking out three and walking one.
"He gave us a chance to compete each inning, but we shot ourselves in the foot,' Drowne said. "When a veteran team like theirs is on a roll, the ball finds holes and they make plays. When a young team like ours is kicking it, it snowballs. We just have to find a way to stop it.
"We just have to find a way to fight through when things don't go our way early and get through that, weather the storm and make plays.'
Lawrenceville and Hill School have played for 126 years ... Atlee is in his 38th season as Big Red coach. ... Hogan and Jeff Armstrong, who scored the final run in the seventh inning, had the other hits for the Blues. Armstrong reached base in two of his three plate appearances.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.