Dramatic wins over Ellinwood and Nickerson push HHS softball team to 16-0 for the season

The Hillsboro softball team capitalized on a moment of good fortune to fuel a come-from-behind victory over Ellinwood in the Trojans? last at-bat of Friday?s doubleheader at the Sports Complex.

The dramatic 7-6 win in Game 2, coupled with a 9-6 victory in the opener, extended Hillsboro?s record to 16-0.

The Trojans had just let a tenuous 5-4 lead slip through their fingers in the top of the seventh, thanks in part to an infield throwing error. They also were facing a red-hot pitcher on Yasnaya Susoeff, who had retired 12 consecutive batters since the third inning.

Her streak appeared to be 13 hitters when Trojan leadoff hitter Taylor Nikkel tapped a high pop fly to the right side of the infield. Inexplicably, the ball dropped safely for an infield single as the pitcher, second baseman and first baseman looked at each other helplessly.

In the confusion, Nikkel took second base with an aggressive head-first slide, then stole third in the same manner before Tena Loewen made the first out on a low pop-up to the first baseman.

That brought up Steph Sanders, who bunted for a base hit as Nikkel faked a try for home. After Sanders stole second on the first pitch to Sammy Koons, Koons grounded out, pitcher to first, enabling Nikkel to slide home with the tying run and Sanders to advance to third.

Gottsch, with two outs, then delivered a game-winning single to right field as Sanders crossed the plate easily.

The game followed a tit-for-tat story line. Ellinwood touched Gottsch for three runs in the first, then HHS scored three in the bottom of the inning. Ellinwood scored a run in the second, but Hillsboro responded with two for the 5-4 lead.

That?s when Susoeff started her string of outs while Gottsch and Courtney Weber, who came on to pitch in the fourth inning, shut out the Eagles until the seventh.

Sanders continued her hot hitting of late, going 3-for-4 in Game 2 after a 2-for-4 effort in Game 1.

The first game followed very a different scenario. Hillsboro scored three runs in the first and third innings to take a 6-0 lead. With Weber putting down the first nine Eagles she faced, three by strikeout, it appeared the Trojans were in for a romp.

But Ellinwood stepped up its game, reaching Weber for two runs in the fourth. HHS responded with one run in the bottom of the inning and two more in the fifth to lead by what appeared to be a safe 9-2 margin.

But an error and three base hits to start the sixth inning resulted in three Eagle runs. Coach Stephanie Sinclair brought in Gottsch to relieve Weber, and she retired the side ?but not before Ellinwood drove in Weber?s final base runner to cut the lead to 9-6.

Gottsch retired the Eagles in order in the seventh inning to preserve the win. With her relief work in Game 2, Weber picked up both victories for the day and four for the week, improving her season record to 10-0.

Nickerson?A three-run eruption in the top of the ninth, combined with four hitless inning of relief pitching by Courtney Weber, propelled the unbeaten Hillsboro softball team to a 5-2 extra-inning victory over Nick?erson Tuesday to complete the Trojans? seventh straight doubleheader sweep of the season.

HHS won the opener, 11-3, behind Weber?s six-hit pitching.

Game 1 was decided early as the Trojans jumped to a 9-0 lead after 21?2 innings, but Game 2 was a nail-biter from the start as Hillsboro starter Franny Gottsch locked up with Baker of Nickerson in a low-scoring duel.

The Trojans finally broke the scoreless start with a run in the third. Taylor Nikkel led off with a single, Tena Loewen laid down a bunt that turned into a throwing error by Nickerson?s third baseman, and Steph Sanders followed with a sacrifice bunt that brought Nikkel across the plate.

Following another scoring drought, Nickerson took the lead with two runs in the sixth. The leadoff hitter slapped the ball into the gap, Nikkel fielded it and fired the ball to Loewen, the cutoff player, for a possible play at third.

But with Loewen looking into the glare of a setting sun, the ball glanced off her glove and hit her in the side of the face, shaking her up. A throw to the plate came too late to keep the runner from scoring.

When the next batter singled sharply to left, coach Steph Sinclair brought Weber in to pitch. Weber retired the next three batters, but the Nickerson runner stole second and third, then scored on a ground out for a 2-1 Panther lead.

Hillsboro forced extra innings by scoring the tying run in its next at bat. With the Trojans down to their last out, Loewen doubled and then scored when Sanders singled to left.

In the ninth inning, Tara Heinrichs, hitting in the nine spot, led off with a single. Nikkel followed with a double to right-center, scoring pinch runner Lexie Kruse. Nikkel advanced on a ground out by Loewen, then came home on a single by Sanders, who then scored with two outs when Nickerson?s shortstop misplayed a ball hit by Gottsch.

Weber, silencing the Panther bats before and after the three-run ninth, earned her second victory of the day and ninth of the season. She struck out five batters during her four innings of relief.

In Game 1, Hillsboro?s early 9-0 lead provided plenty of run support for Weber, who scattered six hits while striking out eight Panthers and walking only one.

At the plate, Sanders led the Trojans? 11-hit assault with a 3-for-4 game, including an RBI double in the second inning. She scored three times. For the day, Sanders went 6-for-8.

Coming?Hillsboro was scheduled to play a tough Halstead squad on the road Tuesday. Next Tuesday the Trojans take on Haven, another strong opponent.

Hillsboro will host the Class 3A regional May 17-18. The rest of the field will include Ellin?wood, Ells?worth, Southeast of Saline, Herington, Marion and Sterling.

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