To win the 2-1A state championship Friday in Great Bend, the Hillsboro High School softball team needed to defeat a Chase County Bulldogs team that entered the tournament on a 66-game win streak.
Beforehand, the team faced progressively stronger competition in its first two games.
Starting pitcher Julie Sinclair pitched a shutout with 13 strikeouts in six innings against the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals.
Hillsboro took control of the game early when Emily Jost hit a ground ball between shortstop and third base, scoring two runs. In the second inning, Allison Weber did the same with a single to shallow center field, and the Trojans led 4-0.
A sacrifice fly by Danae Bina and double to right field by Madison Klein put Hillsboro up six in the fourth, and a three-run home run by Klein in the sixth gave the Trojans a 9-0 lead.
With the bases loaded, Savannah Unruh walked on balls and the game ended on a 10-run mercy rule, 10-0.
Sinclair continued to confuse batters in the semifinal game against Ell-Saline, allowing no runs on two hits, and striking out six in four innings of work.
Trojan batters did not jump out to a lead as quickly, or as large, against the second-seeded Cardinals. The team put its highest scoring inning together in the third, when Klein hit a double to score Kennedy Lucero and Weber for a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth inning, Bina hit a ground ball with Unruh at third base. The throw came home, but the catcher could not hold onto the ball as Unruh crossed the plate and Hillsboro took a 3-0 lead.
Weber took over for Sinclair at pitcher in the bottom of the fifth inning, and continued the shutout. Weber brought a different style to the plate, causing batters to hit ground balls into outs.
Neither team scored again, and the game ended as Ell-Saline hit into three groundball outs.
In the first inning, it seemed the Trojans could pull off the upset.
After Weber and Bina led off the game with walks, Bradli Nowak scored Weber with a double to left field. Hillsboro would end up leaving Bina and Nowak on base, and the 1-0 lead would be the team’s only lead in the championship.
Weber started the game at pitcher and held the Bulldogs scoreless in the first two innings, allowing one hit.
In the bottom of the third inning, though, with two outs and two runners on base, Chase County’s Cassidy Kelsheimer hit a home run that gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 advantage.
Jost and Sinclair hit singles for the Trojans to start the next inning, and two outs later Kennedy Lucero walked to load the bases. A fielder’s choice at third base on the next at-bat prevented a Hillsboro score.
The Trojans brought Sinclair in to pitch the bottom of the fourth inning, and she struck out the first two batters. The next Bulldog batter bunted, and an errant throw at first base kept the inning alive.
A double by the next batter drove in another run, for a 4-1 Bulldog lead. Chase County would score another insurance run in the fifth inning for a 5-1 lead, and eventual victory.
Despite scoring one run, the Trojans had runners on base in all but the third inning.
“Obviously we wanted to win,” head coach Stephanie Sinclair said. “But we played them tough.”