Ground zero

? Trojans win regional title without allowing a run

Hillsboro?s Julie Sinclair fires a pitch during the first inning against Council Grove. The senior left-hander pitched a two-hit shutout with five strikeouts.  Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
Hillsboro?s Julie Sinclair fires a pitch during the first inning against Council Grove. The senior left-hander pitched a two-hit shutout with five strikeouts. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

The sun shone brightly and warmly on the Hillsboro softball team Thursday, and the Trojans were hot enough to win the Class 3A regional tournament in Marion with a 10-0 run-rule victory over Council Grove.

After slogging through a cool and damp 4-0 semifinal victory over Halstead on Tuesday, the Trojans took charge of the rescheduled championship game with a four-run first inning.

Allison Weber led off with a single, and Emily Jost moved her to second base with a sacrifice bunt. After Madison Klein drew a walk, Bradli Nowak whacked a single to left, scoring Weber. Shannon Heiser then drew a walk and Julie Sinclair singled to drive home Klein.

After Ken?nedy Lucero popped out, Mesa Merrell ripped a shot into the right-center field gap for a double, enabling Nowak and Heiser to score Hillsboro?s third and fourth runs.

That was more than enough runs for pitcher Julie Sinclair, who shut out the Braves on two hits over six innings to improve to 12-1 for the season.

?I thought she did all right,? coach Stephanie Sinclair said about the senior. ?There were times when I felt she got behind in the count, but they weren?t giving her any outside corners, really. But I felt when she was behind a bit, she didn?t give them much to hit either.?

Hillsboro?s Shannon Heiser dives to home plate in the sixth inning to score the final run of the Trojans? 10-0 run-rule win over Council Grove in the regional championship game Thursday at Marion. The desperate throw to the plate not only was late, but also high. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
Hillsboro?s Shannon Heiser dives to home plate in the sixth inning to score the final run of the Trojans? 10-0 run-rule win over Council Grove in the regional championship game Thursday at Marion. The desperate throw to the plate not only was late, but also high. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
For good measure, Hills?boro added two more runs in the second inning when Nowak doubled down the left-field line, scoring Weber and Klein, who had singled earlier in the inning.

With Hillsboro comfortably ahead, 6-0, the two teams traded goose-egg at-bats until the bottom of the fifth, when Samantha Moss, pinch-hitting for Savannah Unruh, singled to right-center, scoring Sinclair, who had singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second base on a walk to Lucero.

The Trojans ended the game in the bottom of the sixth with a three-run burst that pushed the margin to the run-rule limit.

Klein led off with a triple, then scored on an infield hit by Nowak. Heiser doubled, scoring Nowak, with Heiser ending up at third base on a bad throw. Heiser scored on Sinclair?s ground ball for the 10-0 finish.

The girls took their regional title in stride.

?They caught some flack because they didn?t celebrate at the end of th game,? coach Sinclair said. ?The girls said they got more comments about that than the fact that they won.

?They thinking about a different goal,? the coach added.

Semifinals?One week after drubbing Halstead 17-0 in three innings, the Trojans found themselves in a battle during their rematch in the regional semifinals Tuesday.

But with veteran pitcher Allison Weber shutting the door on the Dragons, four runs were more than enough for Hillsboro to advance to the finals.

On a day when both teams battled cool temperatures and intermittent light showers almost as much as their opponent, the outcome turned on two brief scoring spurts by Hillsboro.

The Trojans scored all the runs they needed in their first at bat. Weber led off with a single, Emily Jost sacrificed her to second and a single by Madison Klein put runners on first and third.

Bradli Nowak delivers the single that drove in Allison Weber with Hillsboro?s first run of the game. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
Bradli Nowak delivers the single that drove in Allison Weber with Hillsboro?s first run of the game. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
With Bradli Nowak at the plate, Weber raced home on a passed ball. Klein scored easily when Nowak singled to center.

Fans of both teams may have thought the 2-0 lead was simply a slow start for the offense-minded Trojans. But Hal?stead pitcher Sky?lynn Werner, who did not start a week ago, held the Trojans in check for most of the game.

Hillsboro touched the sophomore right-hander for its other two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

After Julie Sinclair led off with a single, Shannon Heiser followed with a deep flyball that Halstead?s right fielder misjudged for a double. A throwing error on the same play enabled Sinclair to score and Heiser to reach third. Heiser then scored on a ground out by Kennedy Lucero.

Weber (9-0), meanwhile, was a hot pitcher on this chilly day. The right-hander finished with a two-hit shutout and 12 strikeouts, including seven whiffs in succession starting in the third inning through the first out of the fifth.

?Allie pitched well,? coach Stephanie Sinclair said. ?She hit low spots, and we knew the umpire would call those. Allie could throw more fast balls with the rain. That kept her effective.?

Looking to state?Hills?boro will begin state tournament play Thursday as the No. 2 seed. They will take on No. 7 Wellsville (19-4) at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Twin Oaks Complex in Manhat?tan.

Should the Trojans prevail, they would play the winner between No. 3 South?east of Saline (21-1) and No. 6 Riverton (20-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The other half of the bracket includes two more Central Kansas League schools. No. 5 Haven will take on No. 4 Silver Lake (20-2), and No. 8 Lyons will take on top-seeded and undefeated Humboldt (23-0) in the other first-round games Thursday.

The championship game is schedule for 2 p.m. Satur?day.