Hillsboro took care of business Monday evening, rolling to a 15-0 run-rule victory in the first round of regional play at the Sports Complex.
The Trojans, who came as the No. 2 seed in the tournament, started slowly against No. 7 Halstead, but built steam as the game progressed thanks in no small part to Halstead fielding errors.
Leading only 1-0 after one inning, Hillsboro added three runs in the second and five more in the third—three of them on a bases-loaded double by Danae Bina—for a 9-0 lead.
The Trojans scored the final six runs in the fourth inning, four of them on a walk-off grand-slam home run by Tena Loewen over the center field fence that kicked in the 15-run mercy rule with nobody out in the inning.
Meanwhile, Julie Sinclair pitched a complete-game two hitter for the Trojans, striking out six Dragons along the way.
With the win, the Trojans improved to 17-2 while the Dragons ended their season at 2-16. Hillsboro will play No. 3 seed Haven (12-3) in the semifinals tomorrow at 4:45 pm.
The winner of that game will play for the regional championship and a state tournament berth at 6:30 p.m.
Lyons—A five-run burst in the top of the seventh inning carried the Trojans to a 15-10 come-from-behind win last Tuesday in Game 2 against Lyons in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Hillsboro’s 9-2 victory in the opener set up the doubleheader sweep, which gave the Trojans a 16-4 record for the start of post-season play.
Hillsboro remained in control throughout Game 1, but the Lions regrouped for the nightcap. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, then tied the game at 7-7 with a five-run rally in the bottom of the fourth.
In the top half of that inning, the Trojans had expanded their lead to 7-2 with back-to-back home runs by Danae Bina and Bradli Nowak accounting for three runs.
In the top of the sixth, Hillsboro inched ahead 10-7 on an RBI single by Klein that scored Bina, followed by a two-run double by Julie Sinclair.
Lyons crept back to within one run in the bottom of the inning, but Hillsboro secured the upper hand in the seventh. Kennedy Lucero, Allison Weber, Bina, Nowak and Madison Klein all singled in the five-run inning.
Weber limited Lyons to one run in the bottom of the seventh to nail down the victory in a tag-team pitching performance with Tena Loewen (2-2). Loewen started the game, but Weber took over with one out in the first. Loewen re-entered in the fourth inning, then Weber came back in to pitch the seventh.
“We really did not help Tena out in the first inning,” coach Stephanie Sinclair said. “We had three errors and it forced us to switch things up. Allie came back in to pitch and that worked until the fourth inning.
“We then went back to Tena and the defense played better this round for her. Allie then closed the 7th inning. Both girls gave great efforts on the mound.”
In Game 1, Weber held Lyons in check from start to finish to improve to 8-2. The Trojans slowly built a 7-0 lead before the Lions broke through for two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Loewen went 4-for-5 at the plate with a pair of RBIs to pace Hillsboro’s 12-hit attack. Nowak added two hits and three RBIs in four at-bats. Klein homered in the second inning.
Smoky Valley—Rarely has one player been as dominant a force against the Trojans than Smoky Valley’s Eryn Stockman was in her team’s 4-2, 4-1 sweep May 6 at the Sports Complex.
The Viking pitcher limited Hillsboro’s potent bats to six hits for the day while posting 23 strikeouts—at least one in each of the 14 innings the two teams played.
“Stockman is an exceptional pitcher,” coach Stephanie Sinclair said. “She has good movement and speed. I think she messes with our confidence, but I felt we were in the games.”
Stockman’s presence was felt at the plate too, where she hit a home run in each game, despite the Trojans’ efforts to pitch around her at times.
“Stockman is a great hitter,” Sinclair said. “She can hit about anything in the (strike) zone for a hit or a possible home run. We chose to walk her about half of the time to face a different batter.”
In the opener, Hillsboro scored one run in the first and sixth innings, but the Vikings countered with two runs in the fourth plus single runs in the fifth and sixth innings off Trojan ace Allison Weber (7-2).
Hillsboro’s best opportunity for a win came in Game 2, when the two teams entered the seventh inning tied at 1-1. With two outs in the top of the inning, the next two Vikings singled and walked. Pitcher Tena Loewen then purposely walked Stockman to load the bases.
But Smoky’s Emily Norberg came through with a single that drove in two runs, and Hannah McBride followed with a run-scoring double.
That was more than enough separation for Stockman, who set the Trojans down in order in their final at-bat.
Loewen (1-2) absorbed the loss for Hillsboro, but had the team’s most successful day at the plate, going 3-for-5 for the doubleheader and scoring all three Trojan runs.