A Hillsboro softball team that started the regular season with a 13-game losing streak ended it with a four-game winning streak, taking single games from Halstead and Hesston May 10, then sweeping Nickerson May 13, 6-4 and 13-6.
The late surge gives the Trojans a 5-15 season record as they head into post-season play this week.
Granted, the Trojans took advantage of some of the league’s weaker teams, who combined for a 6-50 record. Still, the Trojans played with confidence against Nickerson, who was looking for its first victory of the season.
In Game 1, the outcome turned on the Trojans’ four-run fourth inning, highlighted by a run-scoring double by Mesa Merrell as well as two throwing errors by the Panthers that led directly to three runs.
In Game 2, Hillsboro jumped to a 3-0 lead in their first at-bat, fueled by a two-run double by Taylor Helmer that chased home Shannon Heiser and Kalen Moss, who drew walks.
The Trojans put the game out of reach with a four-run third inning. Three of those runs scored on a Nickerson throwing error.
The Panthers rallied for three runs in the fourth to pull within 9-4, but Helmer shut down Nickerson after that to secure her second win of the day.
Coach Stephanie Sinclair her left-hander, in her first year as a pitcher, is finding her stride down the stretch.
“She is more on top of her game,” Sinclair said of the sophomore. “Statistically speaking, her 25 strikeouts to 11 walks through her last eight games is awesome.
“We have to remember where she started and how she is ending the season,” Sinclair added. “Her confidence is higher, our defense also plays with more confidence. Shannon (shortstop) has been a rock for us in the infield.”
At Halstead—The Trojans enjoyed their most successful day to date, sweeping single games against Halstead and Hesston May 10 at Halstead.
Against the home team, Hillsboro (3-15) rallied from a 4-0 deficit with a seven-run sixth inning to claim a 7-5 victory.
Through the first five innings, Hillsboro had been limited to only two hits by Halstead hurler Skylynn Werner.
But the Trojans took advantage of a pitching change to start the sixth. Reliever Madyson Beckett issued free passes to the first five batters she faced—walking three, hitting two.
Shannon Heiser, the seventh batter to come to the plate, delivered the first hit of the inning: a two-run double. Kaden Moss followed with a second RBI double. An outfield error made it 7-4.
Halstead took advantage of two Trojan errors in the outfield to score a run in the bottom of the sixth, but pitcher Taylor Helmer shut down the rally for the win.
With Heiser pitching the second game, Hesston took a 2-1 with in the top of the third inning, but the Trojans launched a four-run rally in the bottom of the inning.
Heiser led off with a single, Kalen Moss reached on an error, Mesa Merrell drove in Heiser with a single, and Samantha Moss doubled to drive in Kalen Moss and Merrell. Helmer drove in a fourth run with a ground out.
Leading 5-2, the Trojans added four more runs in the sixth inning with only one base hit (a double by Heiser). But they benefitted from an infield error, two walks, a hit batter and an RBI ground out by Trinity Malm to lead 9-2.
Aided by errors, Hesston scored two runs in the top of the seventh. But the Trojans got a force out, a strikeout and a fly out to nail down the complete-game victory for Heiser. The senior allowed only two base hits.
Coming—Hillsboro was scheduled to open Class 2-1A regional play Monday at Cottonwood Falls, but those games were postponed because of rain.
Because the Nickerson wins occurred after the cut-off date for seeding, the Trojans are the No. 5 seed at 3-15 and will play No. 4 Canton-Galva (5-11) in the first round.
The winner of that game will play top-seeded Chase County (13-5) in the semifinals.
Also in the field are No. 2 Northern Heights (14-6), No. 3 Moundridge (6-11) and No. 6 Lebo/Waverly (0-2).