ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A three-run burst in the fifth inning broke open a close game and carried the Hillsboro softball team to a split of its doubleheader with Nickerson on Friday at the Sports Complex.
The Trojans posted a 6-3 victory in Game 2 after losing Game 1, 3-2.
“It’s really hard mentally to lose the first game, and then have to come back around and get up for the next one,” coach Carolyn Long said. “It’s good to see the girls have it in them to get refocused and put together a strong game. I’m glad we got the split out of it.”
Hillsboro had broken a 1-1 tie in the second game with a pair of runs in the third inning. With one out, Amanda Bina singled, stole second and then scored on a base hit by Laura Lindsay. Emily Ratzlaff then brought Lindsay home with a triple to right center.
With the Trojans still holding a 3-1 lead, Amy Duerksen reached on an error and Bina followed with a single. After Lindsay popped out on a bunt attempt, Ratzlaff drew a walk. Jessica Klose followed with a single to left center that brought Duerksen and Bina home.
Ratzlaff then scored on a sacrifice by Erin Wiebe for a 6-1 Hillsboro lead.
Nickerson came back with single runs in the sixth and seventh, but Trojan ace Marissa Diener and her teammates limited the damage in both innings and held on for the win.
Diener (3-2) struck out seven batters, walked two and gave up seven hits for the Trojans, who evened their record at 5-5 for the season.
Lindsay Herrel took the loss for Nickerson.
“They threw the same pitcher in both games, so having our timing down and hitting off of her in Game 1 helped us at the plate in Game 2,” Long said.
Game 1 turned into a pitching dual between pitchers Laura Lindsay for Hillsboro and Herrel.
The Trojans drew first blood in the second inning. With one out, Wiebe dropped in a bloop single over second base, Heather Stepanek reached on an error and Tiffany Knaak loaded the bases when she was hit by a pitch. Kirsten Cederberg drew a walk to force home Wiebe. Consecutive pop outs by Duerksen and Bina foiled a bigger inning.
Hillsboro 1-0 lead stood up until one out in the top of the fourth, when Nickerson tied the game on a pair of singles and a Trojan throwing error.
The Panthers took what turned out to be a decisive 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth. With one-out, Chelsi Farney singled, Ashley Engelland reached on a bunt and Meghan Hochstein moved them into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Jamie Moore then slapped a two-run single to left field for the 3-1 lead.
The Trojans pulled to within one run in the bottom of the inning when Jessica Klose doubled with one out, moved to third on a ground out by Wiebe and scored on base hit by Stepanek.
Hillsboro got runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings, but could not bring them home.
“Ultimately, the difference in the first game was we had two errors and they had one,” Long said. “Both of our errors put them in scoring position and allowed them to score runs. When you have a one-point ball game, that’s the difference.”
Lindsay (2-3) took the loss, giving up eight hits while walking no one and striking out five.
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to take on Smoky Valley in Lindsborg on Tuesday and then will play host to Wichita Collegiate on Friday.