ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It may have been the shakeup in the lineup, or simply one of those days when a team just comes together, but the Hillsboro Trojans played their best softball of the season on the way to a pair of 10-0 wins at Lyons on Friday.
The Trojans played solid defense, hit the ball hard, and got outstanding pitching to sweep the Lions and raise their season record to 8-4.
“I’m so proud of the way they played defense,” said coach Carolyn Long, whose ongoing concerns about her team’s play in the field led to some reevaluation after the Nickerson games last Tuesday. “It’s the best defense we’ve played in a long time.”
Against Lyons, Long moved senior first baseman Emily Donahue to shortstop with freshman Amy Duerksen moving from short to first. April Funk moved from the outfield to second base, and Shelby Estelle moved from second to the outfield.
The changes seemed to elevate the Trojans’ defensive energy and efficiency all around the field.
“Our outfield was just awesome today,” Long said. “They got a ton of balls hit to them, and they communicated very well. I was proud of the way they played.”
By statistical standards, the Trojans’ reached defensive perfection in the first game. Pitcher Holly Lindsay (6-4) pitched to the minimum 15 hitters in five innings for her first perfect game and second no-hitter of the season.
Her teammates supported her with no errors and some outstanding plays in the field, including one for the final out of the game. When Lyons’ Tonya Steffan stroked the ball to right field for an apparent hit, Robyn Penner fielded the ball and made a strong throw to first for the put-out.
In the second game, freshman Marissa Diener (2-0) started for the second time this season and tossed the first shutout of her high school career. Getting solid defensive support from her teammates, Diener gave up three hits, struck out five and walked only one.
Offensively, the Trojans used timely hitting and aggressive base running to score in eight out of the 10 innings they played.
Lindsay led the offensive charge, going 4-for-5 with a double, four runs batted in and four runs scored over two games. Emily Ratzlaff went 3-for-7 with four RBIs and two doubles.
Hillsboro came 60 feet short of a game-tying rally in the seventh inning last Tuesday, losing to Nickerson, 7-6, in the second game of their doubleheader.
The Trojans won the first game, 4-0, behind the three-hit pitching of Holly Lindsay.
After a great first-game performance, Lindsay struggled in the second game, giving up seven hits and five runs in the first two innings. Two key fielding errors in the first inning didn’t help.
When two more runs crossed the plate in the fourth, freshman Marissa Diener started the fifth inning and shut down the Panthers the rest of the way on two hits.
“Holly threw a great first game, but they started timing her really well by the end of Game 1 and hit her well at the start of Game 2,” said coach Carolyn Long. “I probably should have started Marissa in Game 2. She did a super job on the mound.”
Trailing 7-0 heading into the sixth, the Trojans didn’t give up. Lindsay led off with a single, then scored on a single by Emily Donahue and an error by the Panthers’ centerfielder.
An error by Nickerson’s third baseman enabled Emily Ratzlaff to reach base. After Julie Wall popped out, Amy Duerksen walked to load the bases. Diener struck out for the second out, but Danielle Goossen’s single drove in Donahue and Ratzlaff to close the gap to 7-3.
In the seventh, the Trojans took up where they left off. Robyn Penner led off with a walk, Lindsay reached on an error and Donahue followed with an inside-the-park home run to close the margin to a single run.
Against a new Nickerson pitcher, Ratzlaff followed with a single and, after Wall popped out, advanced to third on a walk to Duerksen and a ground out by Diener. Goossen, with a chance for more heroics, put the ball into play with a grounder to third, but was thrown out at first to end the game.
“It was disappointing to fall short,” Long said. “We just couldn’t overcome the errors made in the opening two innings. ‘Youth and inexperience’ can only be used so much as an explanation. It’s time for that to be over.”
In the opener, the Trojans picked up single runs in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings to secure the 4-0 win. Donahue and Wall each had RBI singles.
Lindsay, meanwhile, dominated the Panthers from the circle, striking out six and walking two. Nickerson got only one base runner as far as third.
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to play Moundridge on Tuesday. On Friday, Hillsboro will play host to Wichita Collegiate in a key MCAA matchup. The Trojans travel to Hesston next Tuesday. The Collegiate and Hesston games will begin at 4:30 p.m.