CHARLOTESVILLE — The Northeastern softball team that showed up to the regional championship Tuesday was a starkly different team than host Eastern Hancock played earlier in the season.
The Class 2A No. 9 Royals had defeated the Knights 6-5 at the end of April. One month turned the tables.
Northeastern, propelled by 13 strikeouts, swept past Eastern Hancock in a 10-0 seven-inning affair to advance to semistate in Forest Park.
“We beat them 6-5 with a few home runs, only struck out four or five times, and I was proud of that because that was the first time we had seen decent pitching like that,” Eastern Hancock head coach Pat Medler said of their first matchup. “Today, we looked absolutely stymied.”
Senior Katie Schneider helmed the Knights defense and steered the ship the entire game. On top of the 13 strikeouts, she had no walks and only gave up four hits.
The best chance Eastern Hancock had was in the fourth inning when senior Kaysi Gilbert dug in and hit a hard grounder down the third base line to start the inning. Another senior Brooke Walden found a hole with a blooper behind short stop. But Schneider quickly put an end to the rally. She caught a pop up, then sent two back to the dugout nursing their Ks.
Medler said their strikeouts didn’t force Northeastern to make plays.
“They only have to make nine outs, it makes it a little different,” he said.
On the flipside, the Knights cranked out the hits, inning after inning. The young Royal pitchers had faced them before but the revamped Northeastern team showed their No. 4-ranking prowess.
Knight Sierra Gilmore led the 17-hit stampede with a 4-for- 5 game, including a home run, an almost home run and two more singles. The almost home run started the game, followed by a Schneider home run.
They strung together more hits in the third and fourth inning, one crossing the plate in the third and three more in the fourth. Gilmore started the fourth inning with a signature hit up the middle. A few hit batsmen hurt the Royals while the Knights mixed in a few hits of their own. Two more homers in the seventh put the nails in the Royals’ coffin.
Sophomore Elise Bittinger started at the mound and was relieved by freshman Jessi Potts. Despite having thrown against this team earlier in the season, Medler said, “The pitching finally caught up with us.”
The three seniors, along with sophomore Faithe Webster, had the Royals hits for the game. The team finished with a 20-7 record and the seniors finished 40-12 in the last two years.
The seniors are Gilbert, Walden and Peyton West.
“That’s a great run,” Medler said. “They were part of that and they did what was necessary.”
The Royals run ended just shy of their semistate finish last year when they lost 3-2 to the future state champions – Evansville Mater Dei.
“That’s something they can hang their hat on and they got within a run of the state game,” Medler added. “I would have like to gotten back there.”
Northeastern 10, Eastern Hancock 0
WP: Katie Schneider LP: Elise Bittinger
HR: Schneider, Sierra Gilmore, Carli Williams (NE).
2B: Leah Hoskins (NE)