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Softball team makes first-round exit

Staff writer

The Hillsboro High School Trojans were five outs away from a shutout victory in the first round of the 3A state softball tournament Friday in Manhattan, but a series of hits by the Frontenac Raiders and an offensive drought by the Trojans led to a 3-1 loss and the end of the HHS softball season.

The Trojans began the game with three consecutive pop flies in the top of the first inning by Taylor Nikkel, Tena Loewen, and Stephanie Sanders.

Pitcher Courtney Weber started the game on the right foot, striking out the Raiders’ lead-off hitter on a called strike three. A flyout to right field and a groundout to second base ended the inning with the score tied at 0.

Krista Reimer got the first hit by either team with two outs in the top of the second inning, sending a line drive into center field, but she would be stranded at first by a groundout.

With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Frontenac’s Samantha Bonner walked, then stole second and third bases, both on close plays. She plowed into Danae Bina at third base, knocking Bina hard to the ground. After another walk, Libby Warrick of Frontenac bunted into a doubleplay. First baseman Sammy Koons fielded the bunt and threw it to Sanders at first base, and Sanders threw home, where catcher Allie Faul tagged out Bonner to end the inning.

Nikkel hit an infield single past the second baseman in the top of the third inning with two outs. Loewen followed that with an infield single of her own. When the shortstop and second baseman collided, Nikkel tried to score, but was thrown out at home plate, ending the inning.

While running forward in the batter’s box trying to bunt to lead off the bottom of the third for Frontenac, Ashton Alex was hit by a pitch. After conferring, the umpires ruled she hadn’t made any attempt to avoid the pitch, and called her back to the plate to finish the at-bat. She then grounded out with a weak hit to Weber. The inning ended with the score still tied at 0.

It wasn’t until the fifth inning that either team scored. Faul started the top of the inning with a walk. Weber laid down a bunt and was safe at first base because of a bad throw by Frontenac. Faul advanced to third base on the error. Amy Bartel popped out with a bunt, and Nikkel struck out. But Faul scored when Sanders hit a single past the shortstop to give Hillsboro the lead, 1-0.

The Trojans kept the Raiders out of scoring position in the bottom of the fifth inning, but couldn’t generate any offense in the top of the sixth inning.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Frontenac scored 3 runs on four consecutive hits in the gaps of the defense. After relieving Weber of pitching duties, Loewen allowed a bunt single before striking out the final two batters.

The Trojans couldn’t generate any offense in the top of the seventh inning, as Weber grounded out, Bartel popped out, and Nikkel grounded out. The Frontenac Raiders won, 3-1, to advance to the state semifinals.

“We just didn’t get enough hits in a row,” head coach Stephanie Sinclair said after the game.

The Trojans struggled against Frontenac’s pitcher, Lindsey Gorham, who meticulously pitched on the outside edge of the strike zone. Sinclair said the team had prepared for that, but they still weren’t able to string together base hits.

Too many balls were hit directly to Frontenac’s third baseman, Rachel Amershek, who played solid defense, Sinclair said.

“I think she was the key to their win,” she said.

The loss was the final high school game for seniors Faul and Nikkel. After advancing to state the previous two years, being eliminated in the first round was difficult, Nikkel said.

“You come into state with high hopes and high spirits,” she said. “They (Frontenac) played a great game. We had some great defense; we just couldn’t get enough hits.”

Frontenac defeated No. 1 seed Caney Valley, 4-3, Saturday before falling to Osage City, 4-1, in the state championship game.

Last modified June 1, 2011

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