Trojan softball downs Black Bears, Warriors in triangular

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A five-run sixth inning carried the Hillsboro softball team past Marion-Florence/Peabody-Burns, 10-4, in a triangular format with Sterling Friday at the Sports Complex.

After the two teams had taken turns slapping around a first-year Sterling squad in the first two games of the day, the intra-county rivals squared off in the feature matchup, with the Warriors aiming to avenge a doubleheader loss to Hillsboro three weeks earlier.

“It was apparent to us when Marion’s pre-game break was broke with the chant ‘Payback’ that they were here to avenge our two wins earlier in the season,” Hillsboro coach Carolyn Long said. “It was obvious they were here to not just play, but win.'”

Lead-off hitter Sarah Williams got the Warriors primed with a triple to start the game against Trojan ace Marissa Diener. Williams scored on a ground out by Megan Hudson. Diener struck out the next two Warriors to end the uprising.

Hillsboro came right back to tie the game at 1-1 in its first at-bat. With one out, Amanda Bina singled against pitcher Leann Thomas, stole second, then scored on an error by the Warriors on a bunt by Laura Lindsay.

The game appeared to be headed toward a defensive standoff when neither team scored in the second inning.

But in the bottom of the third, Hillsboro appeared to take control with a four-run burst. Amy Duerksen led off with an infield single, Bina singled to center and Lindsay was safe on a bunt to load the bases.

Duerksen scored on a wild pitch before Ratzlaff singled to center to score Bina. Jessica Klose followed with a single that enable Lindsay to come home and then Ratzlaff scored on a sacrifice bunt by Erin Wiebe to give Hillsboro a sudden 5-1 edge.

But the Warriors came right back in the top of the fourth inning. Kari Tajchman drew a walk and Maddox got on base when Ratzlaff was called for catcher interference. Thomas then unloaded a 2-1 pitch from Diener over the center-field fence to close the gap to 5-4.

The Warriors got two more base runners as far as second and third bases with two out, but Diener induced Whitney Wear to ground out to end the rally.

Still with a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, Hillsboro needed some insurance runs-and got five.

Duerksen, Bina and Lindsay led off with consecutive base hits to load the bases. Ratzlaff then hit a hot grounder past short to bring home Duerksen and Bina. Lindsay and Ratzlaff eventually scored, as did Diener, who had singled, to push the lead to 10-4.

Long said she was pleased her team found a way to win.

“When Thomas hit her home run in the fourth, I knew we were going to have to work for this one,” Long said. “They had a dejected look after that inning.

“I told them what it came down to was this-Marion wanted to win, did we want to win more? And if so, then prove it.”

Diener (7-2) picked up the win for Hillsboro, scattering five Warrior hits. The senior struck out three and walked one.

Thomas (4-5) took the loss. She struck out five Trojans and walked two but gave up 17 hits. Her teammates chipped in five errors.

Hillsboro improved its season record to 13-5 with its 13th win in the past 14 games. The Warriors dropped to 8-8.

“I think we’re starting to peak at the right time,” Long said of her Trojans. “That’s what all teams hope for at this point in the season.”

Hillsboro vs. Sterling. The Trojans showed little mercy on first-year Sterling, blitzing the Black Bears with good hitting and aggressive base running en route to a 17-0 pasting that ended by run-rule after three innings.

The Trojans warmed up with six runs in their first at-bat-but on only two hits as the Black Bears shot themselves in the foot with four walks and four errors.

Hillsboro added 11 more runs in the second inning. This time the Trojans pounded out nine hits, including a triple by Amanda Bina and doubles by Emily Ratzlaff, Amy Duerksen and Laura Lindsay.

The Black Bears did commit four more errors before the inning was over.

Meanwhile, Lindsay (6-3) kept the Black Bears quiet at the plate, giving up one hit while striking out three over two innings. Erin Wiebe pitched the third and final inning, setting down the side in order with one strikeout.

“I felt bad for Sterling,” coach Carolyn Long said. “We’ve all had a first year at some point, and it was obvious they are in their inaugural season.

“We scored a lot on passed balls and errors on their part-although we still pounded out 11 hits. It was a chance for us to work on some things and maybe try some different strategies offensively.”

Warriors vs. Sterling. The Marion-Florence/Peabody-Burns Warriors were only a little kinder to Sterling, taking a full five innings to thrash the Black Bears, 17-1.

The Warriors scored at least three runs in every inning en route to the easy run-rule victory. Megan Hudson led a 15-hit attack with three doubles in four at-bats. Sarah Williams and Allie Maddox each contributed three hits, too.

Pitcher Sonja Steinborn threw the full five innings to pick up the win. She scattered five hits, struck out four and walked one.

The only run Steinborn allowed was unearned, as Sterling scored in the fourth inning on a single by Randi Dierksen, a Warrior error and a Shonda Prochaska single.

Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to complete its regular season Tuesday with a doubleheader at home against Halstead. Regional tournament action begins the following Monday at Hillsboro.

Joining the Trojans at the Sports Complex will be long-time nemesis Southeast of Saline as well as Herington/White City, Hesston and Leon-Bluestem.

The Warriors were scheduled to play host to Smoky Valley on Tuesday. Because of the partnership of Marion-Florence with Peabody-Burns, the combined enrollment of the two schools will place the Warriors in a Class 4A regional next week.

The Warriors will travel to Independence to join the following teams: Labette County, Augusta, Field Kindley (Coffeyville), Douglass, El Dorado, Independence, and Circle.

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