Hillsboro second baseman Madison Klein committed consecutive errors on batted balls in the bottom of the fifth inning in the first game against Hesston.
The two missed grounders with the bases loaded allowed Hesston to take a 5-3 lead in the game. The Swathers scored two more runs in the sixth inning on a two-RBI ground rule double by Hesston shortstop Tayler Schuler. Schuler went 2-for-3 in the game with three RBIs on two doubles.
A towering Bradli Nowak home run over the left-field fence led off the seventh inning for the Trojans. Emily Jost, Julie Sinclair, and Erin Loewen reached to load the bases but Kennedy Lucero popped out to Schuler and Bina struck out on a change-up to end the threat. Hesston won the game, 7-5.
Bina was upset with herself with her game one hitting. She went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, but she also struck out twice.
“I was swinging at bad pitches,” Bina said. “I wasn’t making good decisions at the plate. You can’t get down 0-2 right away.”
Bina was just one of many Trojans who struggled against Hesston pitcher Aubrey Denno. Denno had 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work. She featured a dynamic pitch selection, with a fastball at about 70 mph often thrown in a hitter’s eyes, a rise ball that looked very much like her fastball, a deceptive sinking change-up, and a breaking pitch. Denno is signed to play for Missouri State next year.
Denno’s repertoire was on display in the fourth inning. Tena Loewen and Nowak reached with a double and single respectively, each batting balls in two strike counts into left field. Klein then reached on a fielder’s choice attempt to get Loewen out at third base. With the bases loaded and no outs, Denno proceeded to strike out Jost, Julie Sinclair, and Erin Loewen.
“I saw the spin of the ball — it was a rise or a screw — but I couldn’t lay off of it,” Sinclair said.
Bina, Klein, and Sinclair all responded in the second game to give the Trojans an 18-8 victory.
“We’re not going to back down,” Bina said of the Trojans’ attitude.
Bina’s plate presence improved with a new Swather pitcher. She smashed two home runs over the left-field fence, one in the second inning and one in the third. Although she took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to left field, both line drive shots were long gone. The second homer scored Shannon Heiser and Lucero.
“I was smiling when I rounded the bases on the second one,” Bina said.
Bina went 3-for-3, leading off the game with a single. She scored five runs, had four RBIs, recorded two walks, and stole a base.
The game did not start as well for Klein. Although she had an RBI single in the first inning, she committed two errors on one batted ball in the bottom of the first — missing a pop fly and overthrowing Erin Loewen at third base. With three Hillsboro errors total on the play, it allowed two Hesston runners to score.
In the next inning, Tena Loewen was brought in from center field to take over at second base. Klein went to right field with Allison Weber moving to center. Klein eventually moved back to second in the fourth inning. Sinclair finished 4 2/3 innings before Weber came in to finish the second game. Loewen moved back to center field.
Klein responded to a shaky fielding performance with a 5-for-5 game at the dish, including three runs and an RBI.
“Madison is such a confident person,” Sinclair said. “She’s great at not letting those things get in her head.”
Sinclair was on the mound for Hillsboro in game two and was trying to not to let jams shake her confidence.
Sinclair mowed down the first two hitters on strikeouts in the first inning before errors allowed two unearned runs to score. She then surrendered a single to Morgan Eassten before getting a third K to end the inning.
“I thought at that point we were doing fine and we just had to get the third out,” she said.
The Swather hitters started making contact in the third. The Trojans recorded back-to-back fly-ball outs on the first two hitters, but Eassten walked on four consecutive pitches. The next batter was Alex Deegan who connected on a long fly ball that sailed over the leftfield fence for a home run. Sinclair was momentarily rattled, allowing two more singles, before striking out the last batter of the inning.
“It didn’t affect me too much,” Sinclair said of allowing the home run. “I had confidence in the offense and the defense. It helps so much (when we’re scoring runs). You relax so much more.”
With runs from Nowak and Klein, the Trojans were up 9-4 in the bottom of the fourth. Sinclair got two pop-up outs but Eassten had a two-RBI line drive single to center field to put the Swathers within three runs. With Deegan coming up, head coach Stephanie Sinclair pulled her daughter in favor of Weber.
“I wanted to stay in. I wanted to face the girl who hit the home run,” Julie Sinclair said. “It was a smart move though.”
Although she gave up consecutive singles, Weber got out the inning with a grounder to Bina at shortstop. Weber then had two 1-2-3 innings to end the game, with all the outs coming from grounders.
Sinclair said the Hillsboro defense was a big help. The left side of the Hillsboro infield recorded seven outs in the game. Erin Loewen piled up four outs. Bina said she has developed chemistry with Loewen, communicating on any batted balls heading their way.
“It’s good for us to have little bumps early in the season,” Julie Sinclair said of the split. “By the end of the season, we can clear those up.”