Trojan seniors end careers in regionals loss to Herington

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The hard reality in post-season play is that opportunity sometimes knocks only once.

The Hillsboro Trojans lost their chance for a big inning at a critical time, and ended their softball season with an 8-3 loss to Hering?ton in the Class 3A regional semi?finals Tuesday at Council Grove.

SCORECARD

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The turning point came in the sixth inning. In the top half, third-seeded Herington had put the second-seeded Trojans against the ropes with a pair of runs that pushed the Railers? lead to 7-3.

Hillsboro desperately need a rally, and appeared to be on the way when Taylor Nikkel led off with a single to left, Jenesa Klose scratched out an infield hit and Dianne Sanders walked to load the bases with no one out.

But Herington pitcher Crysta Brockmeier got Amber King to pop up, catcher Brooke Hollis then made an outstanding put-out on a pop foul by leadoff hitter Bri Loewen, and Brockmeier slipped a called third strike past Suzy Lindsay to end the threat.

?I thought we would get at least a couple of runs out of that or more,? coach Stephanie Sinclair said. ?That was the definite key in the game.?

After Herington added one more insurance run in the seventh, Hillsboro senior Amanda Bina finished her outstanding career with a single to lead off the Trojans? final at-bat.

But Brockmeier and her teammates ended the contest by getting two soft line-drive outs and a ground out.

The game began as a defensive standoff. Neither team scored through the first two innings. Hillsboro?s Jenesa Klose allowed only one hit in each inning. Brockmeier allowed three hits, but five of the six Trojan outs were by strikeout.

The offense for both teams picked up as the batters got a second look at the pitchers. A lead-off error at first base, a sacrifice bunt and an infield hit set up a two-run single by Hering?ton?s Allie Blythe to break the 0-0 tie in the top of the third.

But Hillsboro came right back to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Loewen led off with a single to left and Lindsay moved her to second with a sacrifice bunt. After Bina lined out, Jessica Klose singled to center to drive in Loewen, then circled the bases for a second run when the Railers misplayed the ball.

Not to be outdone, Herington stepped up in the top of the fourth inning with four singles against Klose. With the help of a misplayed ball in center, the Railers put three runs on the board for a 5-2 advantage.

In the bottom of the inning, Nikkel scored Hillsboro?s third and ultimately final run of the season when she led off with a ground-ball single to center, moved to second on a sacrifce bunt by Jenesa Klose, then scored on a throwing error by the Herington shortstop on a ground ball hit by Sanders.

The loss left the Trojans with a 14-8 mark for the season and still seeking the program?s first state tournament berth.

?We played to our potential most of the time,? Sinclair said of her team?s performance. ?Some routine plays gave us trouble. It is all about doing the little things correctly, and we were still learning that.?

End of an era

The loss completed the high school careers of the Trojans? core of eight seniors, who accumulated a 43-18 record over the three years they permeated the HHS starting lineup.

?No one can replace the seniors,? Sinclair said. ?They have the best attitudes about life and great sportsmanship. They received many compliments from umpires and opposing teams; their character speaks for itself.?

Bina will be all but impossible to replace.

The four-year starter leaves as the HHS career leader in almost every offensive category, including hits (146), batting average (.520), slugging percentage (.829), runs scored (138) and runs batted in (75).

?Amanda will definitely stand out as one of the league?s top hitters of all time,? Sinclair said. ?She contributed so many things to our team, but may be remembered most for having a smile on her face every day.?

Losing the pitcher-catcher battery comprised of twin sisters Jenesa and Jessica Klose creates another huge hole. Jenesa compiled a 33-15 record as a three-year starter, while Jessica was an anchor defensively for three years.

?Jenesa mastered throwing many pitches through her career,? Sinclair said. ?She was so dependable throughout the past four years.

?Jessica will be remembered for having the strongest arm in the catching position in our league,? the HHS coach added. ?She threw out several runners stealing second for the third out, while a runner was on third. No one ever scored in this situation.?

Despite losing her large graduating class, Sinclair is not dispairing about next season.

?We have a nice core of girls coming back,? said the third-year head coach. ?The eighth-grade class will bring in some players that have a lot of summer ball experience.?

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