Sometimes it’s simply the other team’s day to shine.
That may be small consolation for the Hillsboro softball team following a 9-8 loss to Lyons in the championship game of last Tuesday’s Class 3A regional, but it’s hard to argue the assertion.
One week earlier, the Trojans had swept the Lions on the road. But on this crucial day, with a state tournament berth on the line, Lyons showed itself to be the team of destiny.
Seeded fourth with a 12-4 record, Lyons began the afternoon with a 13-3 run-rule victory in the semifinals over Cheney, the top seed at 17-1.
It soon became apparent that the Lions were not going to tuck their tails between their legs in the title game either. After the Trojans claimed a 2-1 lead after one inning, Lyons combined two hits with two Hillsboro errors to take a 4-2 lead in the third.
A three-run surge in the fifth pushed Lyons’ lead to 8-3, thanks to five consecutive singles against pitcher Tena Loewen, who had relieved starter Allison Weber early in the fourth inning.
“I am not so sure that Allie was tiring, but she was having trouble getting ahead in the count,” coach Stephanie Sinclair said of the switch. “I felt she was coming to a tough part of the lineup after giving up a triple, that the time was right.”
Undeterred, Hillsboro orchestrated a two-inning rally that tied the game by the end of the sixth inning.
“I told the girls I was confident that they could get five runs,” coach Sinclair said about the deficit. “They immediately agreed and went to work. I love this about the team. They just don’t back down to anyone.”
In the fifth inning, Danae Bina stroked a two-run home run and Madison Klein added a solo blast one batter later to cut the margin to 8-6.
In the sixth, the Trojans’ No. 8 and 9 hitters chipped in. Shannon Heiser and Kennedy Lucero led off with singles, but an errant throw after Lucero’s hit enabled both runners to score.
“The home runs were very timely,” coach Sinclair said about her team’s comeback. “The other key was having confidence in each other. The girls try to build everyone up no matter the situation.”
In the climactic seventh inning, Lyons’ Brenna McClure led off with a double off Julie Sinclair, who had relieved Loewen with two outs in the fifth. The sophomore left-hander quickly retired the side with a strikeout, then added three more in the sixth inning.
Now, with McClure in scoring position, Sinclair got Breanna Lutschg to ground out. But Cara Johnson followed with a single to right that brought McClure home with what proved to be the winning run.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lyons pitcher Aubrey Hollinger enticed Bradli Nowak and Klein to ground out, but Emily Jost buoyed Trojan hopes with a bloop single to the right side. She advanced to second base on a wild pitch, but the Lions secured the win when Sinclair flied out to right field.
Coach Sinclair was philosophical about the loss that ended her team’s season with an 18-5 record.
“I knew all along that beating Haven and Lyons on the same day would be tough, especially on our pitchers,” she said. “They are good hitting teams.
“Emotionally, it was a roller coaster. It felt like this regional was harder than others, but I never once felt like we were out of it.”
The Trojans will return all but two players from this year’s team, seniors Tena Loewen and third baseman Erin Loewen.
“They are both positive girls and encourage everyone tremendously—I even hear them encourage me as a coach,” Sinclair said. “They will be hard to replace on the field, but the example they set for us will remain.”
Hillsboro 16, Haven 11
Hillsboro outlasted Haven in yet another slugfest between the two teams—and with the help of 10 Wildcat errors.
Reminiscent of their April 30 doubleheader, when the two teams combined for 50 runs in a Trojan sweep, the bats were hot again in the regional semifinals.
Hillsboro fired the first shot in the bottom of the first inning, scoring five times on four hits and two Wildcat errors. But when Haven’s Ashton Chaffin answered with a grand slam home run in the top of the second, it was game on.
Hillsboro added a run in the bottom of the inning on a leadoff triple by Allison Weber and a sacrifice fly by Danae Bina. But the Wildcats jumped into the lead in their next at-bat with three runs on a walk, two hits and a Trojan error.
Trailing 7-6, Hillsboro fired right back with a five-run burst highlighted by a two-run homer by Bina after Shannon Heiser was hit by a pitch and Kennedy Lucero, Tena Loewen and Weber followed with singles.
The offensive storm suddenly subsided, and the 11-7 score stood until Haven added a run in the bottom of the fifth. But the Trojans responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning that resulted in a pitching change.
“The fourth and fifth innings were key in this game, and I felt like Haven gave up with the pitching change,” coach Stephanie Sinclair said. “That was my feeling, but I know they were trying to keep us from hitting.”
Haven pulled to within 13-10 in the top of the sixth, but four Wildcat errors helped the Trojans nail down the win with three more runs in the home half of the inning.
Weber (9-2) pitched the whole game for the Trojans, but was tagged for 18 hits and nine earned runs.
“Haven has always been a good hitting team,” coach Sinclair said. “I felt like it was more of a battle for pitchers, and who could get more outs in a row. Allie had two innings that they did not score and that was the difference.
“The wind was also a factor in this game with it blowing out so hard. Allie had to work on keeping pitches down.”