With two lopsided wins Friday in Galva, 18-0 and 11-1, the Hillsboro softball team was only in trouble one time.
In the bottom of the fourth inning of the second game, the Eagles had runners on first and second with no outs. At this point, the Trojans were up 6-0 — a big inning from Canton-Galva and the Eagles were right back in the game.
Pitcher Julie Sinclair had also surrendered her first walk; she got ahead of Leah Schmitz 1-2 but the Canton-Galva two-hole hitter worked the at-bat, fouling off two pitches and laying off three offerings called outside of the plate.
Catcher Madison Klein went out to talk with her hurler. She told Sinclair to work the inside part of the zone, not to worry about the umpire not giving her calls, and to trust her stuff.
Klein proceeded to call seven curveballs in the next three at-bats. A few of those pitches had nasty looping breaks, running in on the hands of the right-handed Canton-Galva hitters.
“I called a curve every time I could,” Klein said.
Sinclair struck out all three batters, the first with a foul tip change up Klein held. She then struck out the next two batters with pitches that painted the outside corner, the first a fastball and the second a strike-three curve.
As much as Sinclair needed to trust her pitches, she also needed to trust Klein to block any off-speed pitches that might hit the dirt. Klein is not Hillsboro’s normal catcher. Bradli Nowak sat out the first game nursing an injury. Klein normally starts at second base.
“I’m more comfortable (at catcher),” Klein said. “I’m learning (second base) as I go.”
Catcher is what Klein plays in the summer. Tena Loewen filled in at second base and she has varsity experience playing second as a freshman. The rotation of outfielders shifted with Kennedy Lucero taking over in center field, Kalie Siebert coming in at right, and Emily Jost playing left.
Klein’s experience was an asset in two sterling pitching performances from Allison Weber and Sinclair.
Weber threw four innings of shutout ball in game one, with seven strikeouts. She only surrendered one hit and one walk, both issued in the bottom of the fourth. She was only inches away from a perfect outing. Sinclair, playing first, nearly caught a hard line drive from Jennifer Likes. The deflection helped the Canton-Galva left fielder reach with a single. Weber walked Mikayla Baldwin later in the inning.
When Weber was not striking girls out, she was forcing weak fly balls. The key was her change-up, which she could either throw high or low in the strike zone.
“Her change-up is really effective,” Klein said. “It was really working today.”
Weber also displayed pinpoint control, locating a vast majority of her pitches low in the strike zone to either corner.
Sinclair went five innings, surrendering a run in her final inning of work with the Trojans up 11-0. She had six strikeouts and forced six groundballs and three fly outs. She gave up three hits and one walk.
Nowak also hits cleanup for Hillsboro and Klein moved up a slot to that position in the lineup. After a first inning RBI groundout, she smashed a three-run home run over the center field fence. A home run had long been a goal for Klein, yet had been elusive throughout her two high school seasons.
“Madison, now your life is complete,” Danae Bina said as Klein crossed home plate.
Klein’s description of the solid contact made it seem like an otherworldly moment, almost as if she forced the ball over the fence telepathically.
“I didn’t even feel it,” Klein said of the contact. “The mechanics were so right.”
The other Trojans playing different positions also stepped up. Loewen went 3-for-4 with three runs and triple in game one and 2-for-4 with a run in game two. She also had a completed an unassisted double play, tagging out a runner on her way to second and then tossing the ball to first.
Kalie Siebert has played the least of any of the Hillsboro outfielders in game one. She had a hit and an RBI but made her biggest contribution with the leather. The first batted ball for Canton-Galva was a line drive hit slicing away from Siebert in left field. Ranging to her right, Siebert snagged the ball standing up, snow-coning the sphere before securing it for the out.
“Kalie made a sweet catch,” Klein said. “If she would have dived, it would have been more amazing.”
There were other lineup shuffles in the two games. Emily Jost had the biggest response from moving up a spot in the lineup. In the first game, Jost went 3-for-4 with three runs, an RBI, and a triple. In game two, when she moved up to the three spot, she went 2-for-2, scoring three runs.
Sinclair also had a great game one at the plate. She went 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBIS, and two doubles.
With Danae Bina moving into the two hole in game two, Weber moved down to the five spot. She responded with a 2-for-2 performance. She hit a scorcher down to the right field corner that she legged out for a two-run inside the park home run. She added an RBI and another run.
Bina continued her hot hitting. She went 4-for-4 in game one with four runs and three RBIs. Canton-Galva hurler Hannah O’Neil did hold Bina inside the park in two games, although the prevailing wind was blowing out to center field and Bina has been a relentless pull hitter this season.
Nowak did return for game two, although it was in limited time at second base.
The Trojans are now prepping for what should be the regular season matchup of the year: a Friday night meeting with Pratt in Hillsboro.