After splitting a pair of games yesterday at the St. Louis Suburban Softball Showdown in Kirkwood, the Hillsboro Hawks will try to bring home the third place trophy later tonight. Hillsboro meets Parkway South at 7:00 p.m. on Field Two.
Yesterday, the Hawks pushed a run across in the top of the seventh which was the difference in a 3-2 win over Marquette. It was a classic example of small ball as the Hawks got out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Amber Cage led off with a base hit and was moved to second on a groundout to the pitcher by Elly Eckrich. Alanah Dunphy then stepped to the plate a delivered a single to right, scoring Cage. Dunphy moved to second on a groundout to second by Nicole Evans, and then Dunphy sped home on a base hit by Alex Wick.
The bottom of the inning was a classic example of power as Marquette erased that lead quickly as the first two batters delivered a single and then a home run to tie it 2-2. Head coach Kevin Lucas said the entire game was a fight to the finish. “It was a pretty good battle with them, as it stayed tied for a few innings until we could get a run across late in the game. We had a chance in the sixth to score some runs but just couldn’t get that timely hit.”
In the top of the seventh, like a pesky gnat that won’t go away, the Hawks manufactured a run to put them ahead. After Evans grounded to short, Wick coaxed a walk. Kora King came in to run for Wick and moved to second when Ryleigh Hindle reached on a bunt single. Bailey Shumangrounded out to second, advancing the runners to second and third. On the second pitch to Julz Johnson, the ball got away from the catcher, and King scored the go-ahead run.
There were some anxious moments in the bottom of the seventh. After Eckrich got the first batter to fly out to left, she walked the following hitter on five pitches. The second out was recorded on a line drive to Shuman in center, but then Eckrich walked the next batter on five pitches again to put the tying run on second. The next batter faced five pitches as well, but this time Eckrich got her on a swinging third strike, and the Hawks were one game away from playing in the championship game.
Dunphy said the game was pretty intense. “It was close the entire time, and we just couldn’t let up on a team like that. We had to try and stay consistent throughout the game and keep the pressure on them to win.”
“Elly did a good job against a good Marquette team,” Lucas commented. She allowed just two runs on six hits while striking out ten and walking four. She was backed by flawless defense, and a seven hit attack offensively. Johnson, Ellie Bartlett, Cage, Eckrich, Dunphy, Wick, and Hindle each had one base hit. There were no extra base hits in this contest, but it was good enough for a win, and Hillsboro was on to meet Holt to see which team would advance to play for the title.
That game couldn’t have started better for Hillsboro. “Against Holt we were able to jump out and score three in the first to get things going, but against a team like that you have to continue to put the pressure on them,” Lucas stated. In the opening inning, Shuman led off with a double to left. Johnson stepped up and gave the Hawks a quick 1-0 lead with a base hit to drive home Shuman. Then, Bartlett singled to put runners at first and second. Cage recorded a productive out as she grounded to third to advance the runners a base, which allowed Johnson later to score on a passed ball to make it 2-0. With Bartlett at third, and after a strikeout, Dunphy delivered a run scoring base hit, and the Hawks were up 3-0. Evans walked after that, but Hillsboro left two runners on as the third out was recorded.
As Coach Lucas pointed out, a team needs to keep the offensive pressure going, and the Hawks weren’t able to do that. Hillsboro was retired 1-2-3 in the second and third innings. In the top of the third, Holt used a walk, a single, a double, and a triple to tie the game 3-3. Evans singled for the Hawks in the fourth, but Holt added a two run homer in the fifth to go ahead 5-3.
The Hillsboro offense continued to sputter, going down in order in the fifth, getting a two-out single by Dunphy in the sixth but stranding her, and then getting another two out base hit from Shuman in the seventh, but not being able to push a run across. The final score was 5-3, and the Hawks were playing for third place instead of the championship.
“Alex Wick did a really good job of keeping their hitters off balance except for the two innings they were able to score,” Lucas said. “I was very pleased with how we played and kept battling against a team that could make a pretty good run in Class 4.”
Hillsboro actually outhit Holt, 7-6. Shuman and Dunphy had two hits, while Johnson, Bartlett, and Evans had one hit apiece. Wick went all seven innings allowing just six hits while striking out one. She did walk five in the game.
Shuman says games like this can only help in the long run. “Playing teams with a higher class and tougher competition will keep us on our toes and ready for the postseason,” she explained. “The more we see good pitching and hitting teams, the more ready we will be going into districts. If we stoop to a lower competition, we will start to play to their ability and not ours. Playing tough teams will make us work harder and will result in our team getting better.”
The third place game will be a rematch from a game played on September 3, when the Hawks edged Parkway South, 9-8. South is 9-4 on the season, and did hand Summit its first loss yesterday after Summit had beaten Hillsboro Monday. The Patriots did lose to Marquette earlier, a team the Hawks beat yesterday, so this should be an excellent match up. Hillsboro is 10-4 this season. Ameritime Sports will have the story tomorrow.