The Hillsboro High School softball team went 21-2 through the regular season this year, obtaining the third seed in the 1-2A state tournament beginning Thursday in Great Bend.
Most of the core players in that group have played together since elementary school, and all but senior shortstop Danae Bina, a .600 batter, will return for the 2015 season.
“Actually, the juniors, Danae, and Shannon (Heiser) played a lot when they were younger,” said coach Stephanie Sinclair. “I’ve been around them a long time and they have a lot of dedication to the sport.”
The bulk of the Trojan lineup comes from six juniors, who gained varsity experience as underclassmen.
In 2012 when the team won the 3A state championship, then-freshmen Bradli Nowak started at catcher and Allison Weber started as a pitcher. Madison Klein served as a backup catcher and third baseman as well as Emily Jost in the outfield, Julie Sinclair pitched in two appearances, and Kennedy Lucero substituted to run bases for catchers and pitchers.
In 2013 when the team lost in the regional championship, each player played in the position they are at now — Weber at pitcher and third base, Klein at second, Jost and Lucero in the outfield, Julie Sinclair pitching, and Nowak at catcher.
Thursday the girls begin the tournament against sixth-seeded McLouth. Nowak said playing in a different classification, state opponents are more unfamiliar, but the coaching staff does its due diligence to scout for upcoming games.
“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” Stephanie Sinclair said. “I think it’s a team that we may pitch well against.”
The players said they are hoping for a potential matchup with top-seeded Chase County, who they only defeated once growing up.
Some admitted they follow pre-game traditions that may or may not affect the games, such as how everybody except Lucero avoids stepping on chalk lines beforehand.
“I have this hair tie I’ve had through thick and thin,” Klein said, laughing. “I even have to tie it.”
More importantly, Trojan players said they want to think less and just play.
“For me it’d be not over-thinking pitches and over-thinking my at-bat,” Julie Sinclair said. “Just going up there and relaxing.”
The Lady Trojans play their first game of the state tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday at field B at the Great Bend Sports Complex in Great Bend. With a win, Hillsboro would play in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday.