Bats deliver finale wins

Hillsboro?s hot bats overcame a couple of bumpy starts as the Trojans battled past Smoky Valley, 9-3 and 11-5, in their regular-season finale May 10 at the Sports Complex.

The wins improved Hills?boro?s season record to 16-4 and secured the No. 1 seed at this week?s regional tournament.

The visitors threw the first punch in both games, scoring three runs in the first inning of Game 1 and four runs in the second inning of Game 2. But in each case, the Trojans responded with runs in their next at-bat.

In the opener, Hillsboro ace Courtney Weber gave up a single, double and then a home run to Viking pitcher Eryn Stock?man, for a 3-0 score after only four batters. Smoky Valley picked up a fourth hit before the inning was over.

But Hillsboro responded in the bottom of the first with a lead-off single by Taylor Nikkel, who went to third on a bunt single by Stephanie Sanders, then scored when Smoky Valley threw down to second to try catch Sanders stealing. Sanders later scored on an error.

A three-run third inning provide all the runs Hillsboro would need. Consecutive singles by Weber, Nikkel and Sanders brought in two runs, and Krista Reimer drove in Sanders with a hit later in the inning.

?Several girls had nice hits for us considering how good Stockman throws,? coach Steph?anie Sinclair said. ?I think being patient and not falling for the rise ball was key.?

Without a base hit, the Trojans generated three more insurance runs in the fourth inning with the help of four Viking errors?all occurring on Trojan bunts with throws to first base that either were off target or dropped.

After her shaky first inning, Weber (13-2) throttled the Viking bats the rest of the way, allowing only one more hit. The junior struck out two and walked two and the defense played error-free ball the final six innings.

?Courtney pitched a tough game,? Sinclair said. ?She was able to keep everyone off balance and the defense backed her up.?

Weber started Game 2 with a scoreless first inning, but the Vikings roughed her up in the second with four runs on five hits, a walk and a Trojan error.

But Hillsboro responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning on singles by Allie Faul, Weber, Nikkel and Sanders and a triple by Tena Loewen, who scored on a passed ball.

With her team leading, 5-4, Sinclair opted to move Loewen from shortstop to pitcher, and the sophomore responded with a one-run, four-hit, three-walk performance over the final five innings to earn the win and improve her record to 3-2. She struck out five Vikings.

?Tena came in and pitched well,? Sinclair said. ?Giving up four hits in five innings really gave us a boost. Her off-speed pitches were dominating.?

After the five-run second inning, Hillsboro added what proved be six insurance runs over the next three innings.

Sanders, Loewen, Faul and Weber each had three hits in the game as the Trojans accumulated 16 for the contest.

For the day, the first three hitters in the batting order?Nikkel, Sanders and Loewen?went a combined 14-for-21 with 12 runs scored and eight runs driven in.

Regionals?Weather permitting, Hillsboro?s try for a third straight state tournament berth will have been decided Tuesday. The Trojans, seeded No. 1, received a first-round bye Mon?day, and were to play the winner of No. 4 Sterling (5-15) and No. 5. Marion (5-15) in the first semifinal game Tuesday afternoon.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Southeast of Saline (10-8) was scheduled to take on No. 7 Lyons (3-17), while No. 3 Ellsworth (9-9) was to play No. 6 Ellinwood (4-14) in first-round action Monday. The winners of those two games were to meet in the second semifinal game Tuesday.

The championship game was to be played immediately following the second semifinal. For same-day results, go to the Breaking News section at hillsborofreepress.com.

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