Sinclair strikes out 17 in regional title game

Julie Sinclair prepares to fire a pitch to homeplate during the regional championship game against Inman. Sinclair limited the Teutons to one hit while striking out a school record 17 batters in Hillsboro?s 7-0 victory.
Julie Sinclair prepares to fire a pitch to homeplate during the regional championship game against Inman. Sinclair limited the Teutons to one hit while striking out a school record 17 batters in Hillsboro?s 7-0 victory.
Fueled by a school-record pitching performance in the finals, the Hillsboro softball team validated its No. 1 seeding by winning the Class 2-1A regional tournament at Moundridge last Tuesday with a pair of convincing victories.

The Trojans made it to the championship game with an 8-3 win over league rival Sterling in the semifinals, then shut down Inman 7-0 behind a one-hit, 17-strikeout effort by junior left-hander Julie Sinclair.

The Trojans set the tone for the title game in the first inning. After Sinclair struck out the side to start it, Hills?boro scored two runs in the home half off Inman starter Kristen Knackstedt.

Allison Weber led off with a walk and Danae Bina got on when Inman?s catcher dropped her pop fly in fair territory. After the runners advanced on a fly ball by Madison Klein, Weber scored on a ground out by Bradli Nowak and Bina came home on Emily Jost?s single.

Hillsboro bumped the lead to 4-0 in the second inning on a single by Klein that scored Kennedy Lucero and Weber, who had drawn walks.

The outcome was never in doubt after that point as Sinclair (11-0) simply shut down the Teuton attack. Only one runner made it as far as third base, and that was aided by an errant throw on a steal attempt.

?Julie has just been throwing really well,? coach Stephanie Sinclair said. ?She continues to try to use movement with her pitches and her speed has picked up throughout the season.?

The Trojans added three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on a double by Bina, a single by Klein, a sacrifice fly by Nowak, an infield single by Jost and Shannon Heiser?s second double of the game.

For the game, Klein drove in three runs on two hits, including a double. Nowak and Heiser each had two RBIs.

With the final out, the Trojans were happy but not exuberant about returning to a state tournament after losing in the regional finals a year ago to end a streak of four consecutive appearances in the 3A tournament.

?The girls just wanted to get the job done and do more?we did not want any regrets like last season,? Coach Sinclair said.

Semifinals?The Trojans cleared their toughest obstacle earlier in the afternoon against Sterling, who was looking for revenge after being swept by Hillsboro earlier in the season.

The Black Bears struck first with a run in their opening at-bat. A lead-off single, a couple of ground outs and a passed ball brought the run home.

No one scored again until the bottom of the third, when the Trojans rallied for four runs against Sterling pitcher Sarah Stallings.

The Black Bears were their own worst enemy, committing two errors in the inning?including a dropped pop-up by the second baseman with two outs and two runs already in.

Julie Sinclair followed with a single that brought home Danae Bina, who had singled earlier, and Emily Jost, who was the beneficiary of the dropped pop-up.

The four-run burst proved to be all the support pitcher Allison Weber (9-2) would need. She scattered seven hits over seven innings while recording seven strikeouts.

?Allie was very effective,? coach Stephanie Sinclair said. ?She threw well the first time we faced them, and it seemed like her confidence got stronger each inning. I was really pleased to see her finish the seventh inning strong.?

Sterling did score an error-aided run in the fourth inning to narrow the lead to 4-2, but the Black Bears returned the favor by dropping a fly ball in right field that enabled Bina to score from second base.

A three-run burst in the bottom of the sixth secured the win. Another dropped fly ball in right field enabled Weber and Bina to score after they had doubled and singled, respectively. Nowak then singled home Klein, who hit the fly to right.

Seven Trojans contributed to the team?s nine-hit total. Bina and Sinclair each had two hits, including a double each. Klein contributed a first-inning triple.

?Everyone in the lineup is a threat,? Coach Sinclair said.

Coming?Hillsboro will be the No. 3 seed at the Class 2-1A softball tournament in Great Bend this weekend.

The Trojans (20-2) will open against No. 6 McLouth (17-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday. With a win, Hillsboro will play the winner of No. 2 Ell-Saline 23-0 and No. 7 Spear?ville (16-7) in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 1 Chase County (23-0) will face No. 8 Oswego (15-8) in one first-round game Thursday, while No. 4 Udall (20-3) will take on No. 5 Yates Center (19-4) in the other matchup.

The third-place game will begin at noon Friday and the championship game will begin at 1 p.m. All games will be played at the Great Bend Sports Complex.

?State will have good competition,?? coach Stephanie Sinclair said. ?We will continue to refine and practice to be best prepared.?