CHARLOTTESVILLE — It was a perfect result for Senior Night and a perfect game for the junior pitcher.
Eastern Hancock continued its dominance in the Mid-Eastern Conference with a 10-0 victory against visiting Wapahani Thursday. The game was stopped after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Prior to the first pitch, the Royals recognized senior standouts Caroline Stapleton, Kaylee Stewart, Taylor Koch and Sydni Bednarski. All were part of Tuesday’s lineup that hit, ran, and defended their way to the team’s fifth shutout win in league play.
A junior, Madison Stephens, daughter of head coach Terry Stephens, handled things with perfection in the pitching circle.
Stephens retired all 15 batters faced. She got help from her defense, which included a sliding catch in center field from Stapleton, and struck out eight. She fanned the side in order in both the third and fifth innings.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my seniors,” the pitcher said. “I hope this is something they will remember, too. This would not have happened without them.”
“I was thinking about it, a little bit,” she added on going into pitch the fifth inning with a perfect game. “But, having that mindset going in is not a good thing. You don’t want to think too much that you can’t walk a batter, you can’t make a mistake. You don’t want to stress yourself out. You have to treat it like the bases loaded and it’s tied every time.”
She struck out seven of the last nine hitters faced. In the fourth, Wapahani’s Katie Bray and Ashland Kahalekomo hit back-to-back fly balls to Stapleton in center field. The University of Southern Indiana recruit caught them both and had to dive for the ball hit by Kahalekomo for the final out of the fourth inning.
“As the game went on I started hitting my spots a little bit better, but I love my defense so much,” Madison Stephens added.” I never have anything to worry about. I was not surprised at all when (Stapleton) made that catch. She is an amazing outfielder and center fielder. As soon as the ball was hit to her, I knew she was going to catch. She is a master of the diving catch.”
Eastern Hancock got all the runs it needed in its first at-bat. Stapleton led off with a bunt single. She stole second and third base. An errant throw on her steal of third enabled her to score the game’s first run.
The Royals scored two more in the opening frame. Stewart’s RBI-single scored Sammie Bolding, who had reached on a walk and stole second. Stewart also stole second base. She scored on an Emma Bolding single.
Three more runs came across in the second inning. All were scored after two outs. Grace Stapleton and Sammie Bolding each walked and stole a base. Grace Stapleton scored on a delayed steal of home. Sammie Bolding scored on a Brooklyn Willis single, who later gave her team a 6-0 lead after a Stewart double.
All four fourth-inning runs came after two outs. Willis walked ahead of singles by Stewart and Kaylee Kline, the latter scored Willis. Emma Bolding followed with an RBI-double. A throwing error on a ground ball off the bat of Koch scored both Kline and Emma Bolding.
It gave the Royals the magic run total of 10 and gave Stephens the opportunity to end the game early.
The Royals had nine hits and nine stolen bases.
“I feel like all the seniors played really well,” Stewart, who went 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored, said. “(The team) has focused on being aggressive this year. It makes the game go faster, more fun and it gets the other teams on their toes. It gets them frustrated and we build on that.”
The Royals are 7-2-1 overall and 5-0 in the MEC.
They have dominated league games, outscoring opponents 79-0. The 10-0 result Tuesday is the closest conference game to date. The Royals also have wins over Randolph Southern (14-0, April 12), Shenandoah (17-0, April 14), Monroe Central (23-0, April 19), and Blue River Valley (15-0, April 26)
Overall, Eastern Hancock has outscored teams 127-38.
Along with scoring a lot of runs and getting good pitching, coach Stephens commended his team for another stellar performance defensively.
“We started doing helmet stickers this year. I give all the girls a helmet sticker if the team doesn’t make any errors,” the head coach said. “I passed them out (Wednesday night) and I already have to order another batch. This is already our seventh or eighth games with no errors.”
The Royals travel to Lapel Saturday, host Heritage Christian Monday prior to their next MEC game, against Cowan on Tuesday, at Eastern Hancock. The Muncie school is 3-0 in MEC games.
Eastern Hancock 10, Wapahani 0
Wapahani (6-6, 2-3);000;00;—;0;0;2
Eastern Hancock (7-2-1, 5-0);330;4x;—;10;9;0
2B: Kaylee Stewart (EH), Emma Bolding (EH); SB: Caroline Stapleton (EH) 3, Sammie Bolding (EH) 2, Grace Stapleton (EH) 2, Taylor Koch (EH), Kaylee Stewart (EH).
WP: Madison Stephens (Perfect game, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 8 K). LP: Katie Bray.