The Hilsboro varsity softball team can hit. That’s just a fact, folks. Need proof? Take a look at the last two games. In victories over DeSoto and North County, the Hawks banged out a combined 35 hits. Within those hits, there were eight doubles and two home runs. So what’s the secret?
“I think our success for all of our offense was our focus and our patience with the pitcher,” Amber Cage pointed out. Alanah Dunphy said, “I think it all starts by one person getting a good hit and starting us off. Then, everyone just feeds off of it and keeps the hitting going.”
Whatever it is, it’s working. In the impressive win on Tuesday at DeSoto, it started from the beginning of the game. Bailey Shuman led off with a double. Julz Johnson then just traded places with Shuman, doubling to score a run. Then Ellie Bartlett knocked a two-run homer to left field for a 3-0 lead. After two were retired, Dunphy worked a walk, and Nichole Evans singled. Alex Wick delivered a run-scoring base hit to make it 4-0, and the Hawks were off and running. HHS would add single tallies in the third, fourth, and sixth innings. They’d score three in the fifth, and two in the seventh.
“This game was a good test for us to see how we would come out after a rough game on Monday,” head coach Kevin Lucas said. “I was very pleased with how we responded. We came out a lot more focused, and that started in our pregame warm-ups. I was worried we might be putting it on cruise control since we had an early lead, but we didn’t. It was great to see so many different girls contribute to this win.”
Starting with Bartlett, who had a four-for-five day with two runs scored and four RBI. Cage notched three hits, while Shuman, Johnson, Elly Eckrich, Dunphy, Evans, and Wick had two hits each. Ryleigh Hindle also had a hit. Eckrich gave up only two runs on six hits. She struck out four and walked two. “Elly did a great job pitching, and her defense made some good plays behind her,” said Lucas. “One thing I hope we take from this game is how much better we are when we come out focused and stay that way the whole game.”
Eckrich echoed her coach’s words. “We came out focused and ready to go today,” she said. “We were seeing more pitches and seeing the ball really well.” Cage said the game meant a lot. “We needed to come right at them, right out of the gate. Coming off of a loss, we were looking for a big win to try and redeem ourselves.” And Bartlett said the team adhered to Coach Lucas’s message. “After losing yesterday’s game, we were focused and determined to get back on the winning track. Getting timely hits and knocking the runners in played a huge part in tonight’s win. We need to continue this focus and energy in order to have a successful rest of the season.”
So Wednesday, Hillsboro was back home to host the North County Raiders. The Hawks promptly got down by two runs, but then it was their turn to bat. After the first two batters were retired, Bartlett singled, as did Cage, and then Eckrich cleared the bases with a three-run homer. The Raiders made it 3-3 in the second, but in the third, Hillsboro went up 7-3 thanks to an Eckrich sacrifice fly, a two-run double by Dunphy, and a run scoring single by Shuman.
The pesky Raiders answered with four runs of their own in the fourth to tie it, and then scored another run in the fifth to go up 8-7. But Hillsboro would not let the visitors run away with the lead. A six-run sixth inning would put the game to rest. Big hits in the inning included Shuman with a two run double that gave back the lead to Hillsboro at 9-8. Johnson drove home a run with a base hit, Cage doubled in two runs, and Dunphy doubled home the final run to make it 13-8.
“I was very happy with the way we never gave up,” Coach Lucas said. “We continued to hit the ball well, but also got some bunts down and took some extra bases when we could. North County is a very good team, and they have beaten some other good teams, so this was a good test for us. Although we had one breakdown inning that caused us to give up a nice lead, it was good to see the girls step up and have a big inning after losing the lead.”
Cage and Dunphy had three hits on the day. All of Dunphy’s were doubles. She drove in three runs, while Cage drove in two. Shuman had two hits and three RBI, while Johnson had two hits and an RBI. Bartlett and Evans each had two hits as well.
Wick had to work in the circle to earn the win. Despite tossing 131 pitches, she gutted out the victory allowing eight runs. Only five of those runs were earned. She struck out three and walked five.
The Hawks will take a day off today and then travel to Fox tomorrow for a 4:15 p.m. game.