LIBERTY — Even a long bus ride couldn’t hinder the Eastern Hancock offense.
With the help of some timely small ball, the Class 2A No. 16 Royals jumped all over the Union County defense from the start Tuesday, forcing three errors in the first two innings en route to a 7-6 regional champion- ship win.
It is the first for the team since 2012.
After not allowing a single run in sectional play, Eastern Hancock allowed four Patriot runs, but it didn’t matter as it collected 11 hits in the win, led by Darby Shaw’s 3-for-4 effort. She finished with a double and RBI and also earned the win on the mound to improve to 17-2 this season.
She finished with five strikeouts Tuesday.
“We are 15 going as one,” Eastern Hancock head coach Sue Anderson said. “When someone didn’t get a hit tonight, we had their back. It’s all about momentum, and we had it the whole game.
“We preached all week long that we just needed to do the things we do every day.”
Eastern Hancock (19-3) now moves on to face either Southwestern or Henryville on June 4 at the Forest Park in a two-game semistate. The state finals will take place June 11 at Ben Davis.
Senior Jordan Pierson started the first inning with a single to left field followed by a Micah Black bunt, which was mishandled by the Union County defense — twice — allowing Pierson to round third and score for a 1-0 lead.
West and Brooke Walden, who finished with two hits, capped a four-hit inning for the Royals with an RBI each as Eastern Hancock took a 3-0 lead after a half inning of play.
It tacked on another run in the second after the Patriot (23-7) defense again failed to handle the Royals ability to lay down bunts. Faithe Webster scored all the way from first after a Union County throwing error.
After a 1-2-3 inning from the defense, Eastern Hancock extended its lead to 6-2 midway through the fourth after another Patriot error and West RBI single — her second of the game.
Union County finally found rhythm in the fourth with the help of back-to-back Shaw walks. A double and error later and the Patriots were within two, 6-4 heading into the final innings of play.
In maybe the biggest play of the game, with one out in the fifth with a Union County runner on third base, Webster caught a short fly ball off the bat of Madison Walters in right field. She then launched it home to pick off the runner tagging from third for the final out of the inning.
“That was awesome,” Anderson said. “We work on that in practice, and for her to come through like that was just awesome.”
Shaw helped her own cause in the sixth frame with an RBI single to center field, which scored Walden for a 7-4 Royals lead.
The Patriots scored again in the sixth, as well, but it was not enough as Eastern Hancock and Shaw got the final Union County batter to pop up to end the game.
Freshman Kristin Klein led the Patriots, who committed four errors in the loss, with two hits and two RBIs.
Kaysi Gilbert also collected two hits, including a double, for the Royals.
“I am so proud of everyone,” Anderson said. “We had to change our strategy throughout the game. We were patient and got the bunts and hits when we needed. I am just super proud.”
Eastern Hancock 7, Union County 6
WP: Darby Shaw 18-2 LP: Rachel Sparks (UC).
RBI: Walden, West 2, Shaw (EH); Walters, Klein 2, Sparks 2, Franklin (UC). 2B: Walden, Gilbert (EH). Sparks, Adams (UC). SB: Hunt, Pierson 2, Gilbert (EH).