The Hillsboro High School softball team won its regional tournament with victories over Southeast of Saline, 2-0, and Sacred Heart, 3-0, Tuesday at Southeast of Saline.
By securing a third-consecutive state berth, some Trojan standouts deserve an early graduation from their underclassman status. It’s only a couple of weeks early.
Freshmen are not supposed to throw back-to-back complete game shut outs with regional pressure bearing down on them. Allison Weber accomplished this feat. She shut the door on Sacred Heart with a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh inning, two pop ups and a strikeout. She had three strikeouts in the game. Head coach Stephanie Sinclair said Weber’s control was impeccable and forced Sacred Heart hitters to ground out or fly out.
“It’s the best she’s ever pitched,” catcher Bradli Nowak said. “She was hitting her spots really well. She was throwing harder than she has all year.”
Weber overcame serious nerves to shut out Southeast of Saline in the first game. After a shaky first inning, she clamped down to the tune of six strikeouts. She later would score the winning run in the sixth inning. She laced a line drive to right field on an inside pitch. Two subsequent errors allowed her to score on the play.
Sinclair said she decided to pitch Weber in both games because she has been exceptionally sharp as of late.
Weber’s performance on the mound was aided by stout defense led by shortstop Danae Bina. Bina made one diving stop in the fourth inning against Sacred Heart to save a hit. She cleanly played a monstrous up-the-middle hop with her glove resting on her chest in the fifth inning. Although it was a much easier play, she caught a pop fly to end the game.
“She has one of the most important fielding positions,” Nowak said. “She’s playing the best I’ve seen her play.”
Bina also had two of the most important hits against Sacred Heart. She started a Hillsboro rally in the third inning with a triple and was driven in by Sammy Koons for the first run of the game. She put the Trojans up three with an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning. The blast sailed over the unsuspecting left fielder’s mitt.
“That’s the type of hit that just puts a smile on your face and makes you love this game,” Bina said.
Bina did not have much time to smile as she rapidly rounded the bases. She was surprised when Sinclair waved her to continue from third. She punctuated the play with a head-first slide at the plate.
“I didn’t know where the ball was and when you don’t know where the ball is you’ve got to get down,” Bina said. “I like to get dirty.”
Bina was just one of the young Trojan hitters who fared well against Sacred Heart flame-thrower Hillary Williams. Nowak added a double in the third inning which scored Koons for the Trojans’ other run. Allison Weber, Nowak, and Madison Klein were routinely Hillsboro’s most patient hitters, working counts full on many at bats.
However, one place where experience was evident for Hillsboro was the application of positive energy. Bina and Koons were the top proponents of reinforcement for their teammates. They yelled loudly during a completed double play. Bina was the loudest teammate to greet Koons after she scored on Nowak’s hit.
“It was just so fun,” Bina said. “My personality was already obnoxiously loud. I come from a big family so I have to be loud to be heard.”
The fact that Bina was just being herself was the most important part of that team energy. Before the second game began, seniors Krista Reimer and Stephanie Sinclair were razzing each other as they do before most games. It let freshmen like Nowak know that this is just like every other game.
“Some people don’t realize how much the atmosphere of the team affects plays,” Bina said.
Bina said the Trojans had a similar attitude during their undefeated state volleyball run. She said the Trojans are hoping to bring that same energy to state softball.
“We’re going to have to. Last year, we didn’t do much,” Bina said. “We have a lot of seniors and we need to get them a plaque.”