For the Daily Reporter
DUBLIN — It’s not very often a game is won in the second inning, but in hindsight, Eastern Hancock might have pulled it off Wednesday night in its sectional softball semifinal, winning 2-0 against defending sectional champion Centerville.
In a 0-0 game in the bottom of the second, Centerville had runners on second and third bases with one out. Centerville’s next batter sent a sinking liner to right field that looked certain to fall and score at least one run, but Royals right fielder Reagan Hunt had different ideas. Fully outstretched, Hunt dove to her left and caught the ball just before it hit the grass.
“I’m really proud of our defense,” Eastern Hancock coach Sue Anderson said afterwards.
Eastern Hancock advanced to today’s sectional championship, to face the winner of Cambridge City-Hagerstown, which was ongoing late Wednesday evening.
Royals’ pitcher Darby Shaw pitched a complete game, allowing no runs on six scattered hits, and the only other time Centerville seriously threatened to score was the sixth inning, and the Royals’ defense saved the day once again.
With runners on second and third, Centerville first baseman Savannah Cates hit a sharp liner to third base. Royals’ third baseman Brooke Walden scooped the ball, tagged the sneaking third base runner, and fired a perfect throw to first to complete the double play and end the inning.
“(Centerville) was really starting to get momentum in those two innings, and our defense just stepped up and kept us in the game,” Anderson said.
The Royals’ defense got most of the attention afterwards because the normally potent Eastern Hancock lineup could not get going.
The Royals’ 3-4-5 hitters finished a combined 2-9 with only two singles to show for their efforts. Luckily, the Royals’ aggression on the basepaths was able to get the job done. In fact, all five of Eastern Hancock’s hits were singles.
“Most teams solely rely on their 1 through 6 hitters in the lineup, but the lower part of our order has a lot of confidence,” Anderson said. “But the bottom part of our lineup carried us tonight.”
In the fourth inning, Micah Black made it to first on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second on a Savannah Patterson single, ran to third on a passed ball, and scored on a wild pitch to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.
The fifth inning produced another similar run for Eastern Hancock. Center fielder Jordan Pierson singled to lead off the inning. Kasey Gilbert next hit what appeared to be a routine ground ball, but the first baseman dropped the throw. Pierson proceeded to score all the way from first base to give the Royals the lead.
Looking forward to the championship game, Anderson smiled: “I think we have a chance as long as we do what we know how to do. If our defense plays like they did tonight I like our chances even more.”