The Hillsboro High softball gained more than it lost from fielding errors Monday and secured a place in the Class 3A regional cham?pionship game at Marion with a 4-3 heart-stopping semifinal win over Sterling.
The Trojans made it into the semifinals with 12-2, five-inning victory over Marion in the first round.
Hillsboro had beaten Sterling handily in a season-opening doubleheader, but in this critical rematch, the Trojans had their hands full.
Pitchers Franny Gottsch of Hillsboro and LaChelle Bell of Sterling kept the offense subdued through four innings at 1-1.
But in the bottom of the fifth, Hillsboro loaded the bases when Krista Reimer singled, Tara Heinrichs reached on a fielder?s choice and Taylor Nikkel was hit by a pitch.
Courtney Weber then hit a hard ground ball that the first baseman misplayed, enabling Reimer and Heinrichs to score.
But in the top of the sixth, Sterling scored a run on a single, a stolen base on an error, then a sacrifice fly.
Hillsboro made it 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth on a single by Gottsch, a walk to Amy Bartel and a two-out ground ball that went through the legs of the Sterling second baseman, enabling Gottsch to cross the plate.
Sterling made the seventh inning interesting when the leadoff hitter reached on a third-strike pitch that got past the catcher. Gottsch struck out the next two hitters but the next Black Bear ripped a hard blast to left field.
Reimer, back-pedaling with the sun in her eyes, couldn?t hang onto the ball, enabling the Sterling runner to score. The next batter smacked a line drive to right field, but Bartel was there to make the catch for the final out.
Sterling finished its season with an 11-11 record.
With a state tournament berth on the line, the Trojans (12-10) will play the winner of the other semifinal game between Council Grove (13-8) and Herington (10-9) at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at Marion.