LIBERTY — Forty-eight hours after losing a conference championship game due to a meager offense, the Eastern Hancock softball team took a step toward winning a more important title Monday, thanks in part to a potent aluminum attack.
While Darby Shaw tossed a two-hit gem, the Royals did their part at the plate, collecting 12 hits in a 13-0, five-inning victory over Hagerstown in the Sectional 41 quarterfinals at Union County.
The Royals (18-7) advanced to face the host Patriots (13-9) today, following the first 41 semifinal between Centerville (NA) and Cambridge City Lincoln (22-4) at 5 p.m.
“We have been due for a long time now,” said EH first-year coach Sue Anderson, whose club went 5-5 after a 12-2 start to the year, “Our sticks have gone down quite a bit recently, but I think these girls are competitors. And coming into today, they knew the pitcher, they knew what they were going to get and they were ready.”
On May 19, in the midst of the Royals’ mini-slump, Hagerstown pitcher Brytni Dale shut down Eastern Hancock in a 5-3, nine-inning Tigers win. The Royals struck out 18 times in the game.
Eastern Hancock stayed frigid at the plate much of the final weeks of the season, including Saturday, when Indian Creek defeated EH 3-1 in a battle of Mid-Hoosier Conference unbeateans. An Eastern Hancock victory would have given the Royals (7-1) a league title. Instead, EH twice left the bases loaded Saturday and the Braves (8-0) finished as conference champs.
There was no offensive shortage for the Royals Monday. Freshmen Peyton West and Kaysi Gilbert each delivered two-RBI line drives to highlight a five-run top of the first for the girls from Charlottesville.
EH added a pair of runs in the third inning and six more in the fifth to finish off the Tigers, who were helpless against Shaw.
The Royals’ junior pitcher took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Hagerstown designated hitter Alyson Stover broke up the no-no with a clean double to left-centerfield with one out in the final frame. Shaw finished with 11 strikeouts.
“Darby always pitches well for us, it’s just a matter of do we get our hits when we need them,” Anderson said. “But she came out tonight and pitched exactly the game we needed to have. She did well. She did very well.”
Shaw, hitting in the cleanup spot, also scored a pair of runs following a walk and a single. Gilbert, in the No. 6 hole, finished 3-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored. West, EH’s No. 5 hitter, was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
Allison Dickey (two hits) and Sklyer Overleese (two runs scored) – two of only five seniors on the EH roster – also aided the offense.
Everyone in the Royals’ lineup had at least one hit, save for Overleese, who drew two walks.
The Royals hope to move another rung closer today to a second-straight sectional title. Last spring, EH claimed the second sectional championship in program history, then won its first-ever regional crown.
The 2013 squad featured a host of seniors, including Hancock County Co-Player of the Year Savannah Blevins. Anderson has faith the current group has figured out the importance of aggressiveness.
“I think when you have a young team, you get up, and then I think it’s very easy to just settle in and be content with what you have,” the coach said. “But we’re really teaching: We have to come out and we have to pound teams and pound teams and pound teams, so we become the team people fear.
“I think we lost that earlier in the year. I think we became very complacent. A lot of other things got in our way. We lost focus of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. And, so coming out tonight, we just knew we needed to pound them and pound them.”
Notes: EH and Union County did not play this season. … West, the catcher, threw out Hagerstown’s first base runner of the day. In the bottom of the third inning, Cara Brown drew the first walk of the game off Shaw. But Brown was gunned down attempting to steal second base. … The won-loss record for Centerville, one of today’s semifinal participants, wasn’t immediately available Monday. … In last year’s Sectional 41, Eastern Hancock drew a bye, beat Hagerstown 7-3 in the semifinal and Northeastern 5-0 in the championship. … The title game is Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Class 2A Sectional 41 quarterfinal
At Union County, Monday
Eastern Hancock 13, Hagerstown 0
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
EH (18-7) 502 06 — 13 12 2
HA (13-12) 000 00 — 0 2 3
WP: Shaw (9-5). LP: Dale (5-3).
EH: Shaw 5 IP, 2 H, 11 K, 2 BB; Gilbert 3-3, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R; West 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Overleese 2 R; Dickey 2-3.
HA: Stover 1-2, 2B.