Madison Klein did not go into her high school softball debut thinking she would get the winning hit for Hillsboro, one of her four hits in the evening.
Her expectations were tempered. She said she just wanted to do her best.
Head coach Stephanie Sinclair had different expectations. She told Klein she wanted to hit the freshman in the nine-hole, using her as a second lead-off hitter. She wanted Klein to be the team’s surprise.
Klein delivered. The Trojans started the sixth inning of their first game against Nickerson down 5-2. Klein hit a soft fly ball in exactly the right spot, between the first baseman and right fielder along the right field line to drive in Courtney Weber and Amy Bartel. It made the score 6-5. Krista Reimer and Sammy Koons scored earlier in the inning.
“It was a wonderful feeling,” Klein said.
Fellow freshman Allison Weber grounded out to score Klein and the Trojans took a 7-5 lead into the sixth inning.
In relief of senior sister Courtney, Allison Weber finished the game on the mound. She allowed a run, but recorded a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh to give Hillsboro a 7-6 win.
“I know they are there to help me out,” Courtney Weber said of Allison and freshman pitcher Julie Sinclair.
In a previously unplanned move, Sinclair started Julie Sinclair in the second game and kept fellow freshman Bradli Nowak in at catcher.
“Bradli knew the batters better,” Stephanie Sinclair said.
Stephanie Sinclair hypothesized that her daughter would throw the Nickerson hitters off with her change of pace from Courtney Weber, but that she would bring Courtney Weber in when Julie Sinclair started to get hit.
The freshman hurler was hardly hit in seven innings, allowing five hits total. She started the game with three consecutive perfect innings, forcing five groundouts in that span. Keona Johnson broke up the no-hitter in the fourth with a double to right field.
But, by that point the Trojans’ bats had done significant damage, Hillsboro won the game 10-1. Those bats included Klein, who went 3-for-4 with 3 runs and an RBI, and Allison Weber who went 3-for-4 with three singles.
Coach Sinclair said Weber, with her slap hitting prowess, brings a new dimension to the Hillsboro offense. It was a tactic that Nickerson was unprepared for on Friday, evidence by a slap bunt where Weber reached safely because no one covered first base.
Coach Sinclair added that Weber has worked tirelessly to improve her slap hitting, laying down hit after hit after practice. Coach Sinclair said it has transformed Weber from a good left-handed hitter into a formidable left-handed hitter.
Hillsboro’s freshman talent may have surprised Nickerson on Friday, but the secret is out now.
Courtney Weber said the group of freshman is reminiscent of her and her senior teammates three years ago because they have developed a chemistry playing together in youth leagues.
What has changed is that Courtney Weber thought her class was almost unexpectedly thrown into situations. She, Krista Reimer, Stephanie Sanders, Bartel, and Sammy Koons have gone out of their way to embrace their new teammates.
“It has made a previously intimidating experience for the freshman comfortable,” Klein said. The seniors affectionately called Allison Weber “wheels” when she reached base. They joked with the freshman girls in the dugout like they had been with the team for the past two state tournaments. The seniors are also looking to provide guidance when possible.
Courtney Weber said she realizes the rarity of having two groups of talented players merge on one team. The Hillsboro seniors are looking to take advantage of that opportunity.
“I wouldn’t want these freshmen playing with anybody but these seniors,” Coach Sinclair said. “They’ve built this; they want these young girls to play up with them.”