BIG SANDY -- There's more than just one good story playing out in District 14-3A.

Harmony halted Grand Saline's opening four-game unbeaten streak in the league Tuesday with a 3-1 home win against the state-ranked Indians. By doing so, the Eagles have already increased their win total by 600 percent in comparison to last season with a 12th victory.

"It's a great win against a really, really good team," Harmony skipper Ronnie McNeel said. "It is huge for us. Last year, I mean, we won two ball games. We were really young, but the guys didn't care. They just kept coming out and working hard. They believed in each other, and this is just a great team win."

The win didn't come without struggle against an Indians team that started the week ranked No. 22 in the latest Class 3A poll.

Grand Saline starting pitcher Aaron Bolin allowed four hits through his own complete game effort for the Indians.

Sophomore starting pitcher Nick Hoelscher, at the very end of his rope, threw a 10th strikeout to strand three Grand Saline runners at the end of the game. It was his response from allowing three walks and suffering a fielding error earlier in the inning.

But Grand Saline (11-3, 4-1) never scored in the frame.

After drawing a one-out walk and getting a second man on base with aid of the error, Hoelscher's fatigue actually paid a dividend for Harmony (12-3, 3-2). The pitcher put a ball in the dirt, triggering Cleighton Schedule to move from second base to third base.

Eagles freshman catcher Easton Blackstone capped a Most Valuable Player caliber night with a quick recovery and throw to third base for the inning's second out.

Hoelscher threw another walk, but then earned the final out with a strikeout looking. He capped a two-hitter in the process.

"I started off strong, but, toward the seventh inning, I just had to regather myself and keep competing," Hoelscher said. "I try not to let the nerves get to me. I just keep trying to pound the zone. It's real big. We knew we could beat them. We just had to play our game and keep fighting."

Blackstone, meanwhile, wasn't just a defensive star. He played a role in each of the three runs Harmony scored while batting 1 for 2 with a walk.

Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third, the freshman hit a two RBI double with one out on the third pitch of his at-bat.

Blackstone's drive landed in medium-depth left field about two feet from foul territory in front of the fielder. The ball then bounced into foul territory, gained speed on the dirt and rolled toward the wall while Hoelscher and J.D. Powers sprinted home.

Hoelscher and Powers both reached base on walks, interspersed by one-hole hitter Zac Thompson's hit-and-run to advance Hoelscher from first base to second base.

Blackstone added to Harmony's narrow lead in the top of the sixth by drawing his walk on five pitches. He got home two batters later thanks to a Grand Saline fielding error.

The Indians owned a short-lived lead in the top of the third inning. Schedule got home on a bases loaded wild pitch with two outs in the fame.

Hoelscher ended that threat with a strikeout.

"This win is huge," Blackstone said. "Hopefully, this will motivate us to just keep working up the ladder and getting back into the playoffs."

If the playoffs began today, the Eagles would be in. The victory advanced the squad from a three-team tie for third place within the league into a two-team tie with Winnsboro.

Alba-Golden, which entered the day tied with Harmony and Winnsboro in the standings, fell out of the tentative top half with a loss to Quinlan Ford elsewhere in district play.

Grand Saline's defeat knocked it into a tie with Edgewood at the top of standings.

There's a lot of baseball to play though. Each District 14-3A team has nine league games remaining.

The Indians will travel to Winona on Friday while Harmony simultaneously hosts Quitman.

"It's just a great team win," McNeel said. "Great pitching, great defense, great approaches at the plate against a really good pitcher. The kids didn't back down."

Harmony freshman catcher Easton Blackstone and sophomore pitcher Nick Hoelscher discuss signs during the third inning of Tuesday's 3-1 victory.

Harmony 3, No. 22 Grand Saline 1

District 14-3A
At Harmony High School, Big Sandy

Grand Saline           001    000    0    --    1    2   2
Harmony                 002    001    X    --    3   4    2

Pitchers and catchers
  • Grand Saline: Aaron Bolin and Gus Crawford
  • Harmony: Nick Hoelscher and Easton Blackstone
  • WP -- Hoelscher
  • LP -- Bolin
  • Grand Saline: Jordan Smith
  • Harmony: Blackstone