ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A six-run fourth inning carried the Hillsboro softball team to a 10-7 win and a sweep of its season-opening doubleheader Friday at Marion.
The Trojans won the first game, 7-5 behind the eight-hit pitching of Marissa Diener.
In Game 2, Marion had staked a 2-1 lead after three innings with error-aided runs in the first and third innings against Trojan starter Laura Lindsay.
In the first inning, leadoff hitter Caitlin O’Dell walked and Whitney Wear reached on an error. After Sarah Williams popped out, Emmy Bowers ripped a hard line drive that Diener couldn’t squeeze, allowing O’Dell to score.
A pop fly single behind second base by Kara Holt loaded the bases. But Wear was forced at home on a ground ball to short, and Ashley Bilbe grounded to second for the final out.
The Trojans came back to tie the game in the top of the second when Diener reached on an error, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out by Sara Hamm and scored on a wild pitch by Marion starter Leann Thomas.
Marion went back on top in the top of the third when Williams singled and advanced to third on an error in center. Bowers then drove her home on a ground out.
But in the top of the fourth, Hillsboro turned three hits, a walk and three Warriors errors into six runs to take the lead for good, 7-2. Emily Ratzlaff’s bases-loaded double with one out was the key blow. Diener followed with an RBI single.
But Marion didn’t give up. In the bottom of the fifth, the Warriors scored four runs on four hits, a walk and a Trojan error when a two-out ground ball by Thomas got past shortstop Amy Duerksen, enabling two Warriors to cross the plate.
The previous at-bat, though, Duerksen cut down a run at the plate by firing a perfect strike to Ratzlaff, who laid the tag on Williams trying to score on a single by Holt.
With their lead cut to 7-6, the Trojans gave themselves some breathing room with a pair of runs in their next at-bat. With one out, Lindsay and Duerksen singled. Ratzlaff followed with a groundball single up the middle, scoring both Trojan runners.
Hillsboro and Marion each added runs in the seventh to keep the final margin at three.
Lindsay (1-0) went the distance for Hillsboro, giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out two.
Bowers (0-1) took the loss, coming in to relieve Thomas in the fateful fourth inning. Bowers allowed eight runs on four hits.
Diener (1-0) pitched a strong Game 1 for Hillsboro, giving up no earned runs in seven innings.
Marion did strike first blood in the second inning, though, when Kara Holt singled with one out and then scored when the Trojan outfield misplayed a single by Thomas.
Hillsboro came back with two runs in the third inning without a base hit. Katie Baltzer and Stephanie Loewen walked to open the inning. A pair of wild pitches enabled Baltzer to score. After Danielle Goossen walked to put runners at first and third, Lindsay laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to score Loewen. Goossen then scored on an RBI ground out by Duerksen.
Marion tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the inning when the Trojans misplayed consecutive balls hit by O’Dell, Wear and Williams, allowing O’Dell to score. Wear scored on an interference play when Williams ran into Duerksen, who was trying to field a ball hit by Bowers.
Neither team scored again until the top of the sixth when Hillsboro picked up two more runs. Ratzlaff led off with a single and advanced to second on an error. She stole third and then scored when a third strike on Diener got past the catcher.
Diener, who reached safely on the passed ball, scored when Tiffany Knaak sacrificed her to second and Hamm singled to right field.
The Trojans added two more runs in the seventh. Lindsay reached on an error and Duerksen singled to start the inning. Two outs later, Knaak stroked a single to left to drive in both runners.
Diener (1-0) gave up eight hits, struck out four and did not walk a batter for Hillsboro. Thomas (0-1) gave up six hits and walked four while striking out four.
Both teams were hurt by errors. Hillsboro committed 11 on the day and Marion nine.
“We had more errors than I thought we would,” said Trojan coach Carolyn Long. “The were caused by mental lapses probably more than anything. Some of those things are going to happen at the beginning of the year, but should be things we don’t continue to see.”
Warrior coach Charlotte Waner tried to put her team’s mistakes into perspective.
“For the most part, I thought we played very well,” she said. “We have some small things to work on, but I thought the older girls stepped up and did their part and the younger girls made good plays.
“Hillsboro had some really good hits and you just can’t do anything about that,” Waner added.
The Trojans’ hitting encouraged Long.
“We hit the ball fairly well,” she said. “That was something I was concerned about with so few practices.”
Both coaches were pleased with the performance of their respective teams, given the opening-day scenario.
“As a whole, I’m pleased with the girls’ performance against Marion,” Long said. “Marion was a good team for us to open with. They are small in numbers but not in talent. Both games were tight for seven innings. It was positive to see the girls do what they needed to do to finish with the wins.”
Said Waner: “Overall, I was very pleased. I was nervous going in because you just never know what to expect, but the girls stepped up and did what they needed to do-so that made me feel a lot better.”
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to play Tuesday at Wichita Collegiate. A report of that game will appear in the Free Press Extra, on newsstands Thursday late afternoon.
On Thursday, Hillsboro will face Nickerson in the Trojans’ home opener. The first game of the twinbill will start at 4:30 p.m. at the Sports Complex.
The following Tuesday, Hesston comes to the Sports Complex for a doubleheader with a 4:30 p.m. start.
Marion, meanwhile, will play host to Wichita Independent on Thursday. Council Grove comes to town the following Tuesday. Game time on both days is 4:30 p.m.