Washed Out: Rain puts Royals’ sectional title defense on hold


Eastern Hancock’s Sammie Bolding and her third-base coach track a fly ball before Bolding tags up to score a run in the bottom of the first inning during the Class 2A Sectional 42 championship game against Triton Central on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

Richard Sitler | Daily Reporter

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The sunshine didn’t last long Wednesday afternoon during the Class 2A Sectional 42 championship game at Eastern Hancock High School.

First, cloud cover and strong wind gusts blew through the campus in the top of the second inning, then came lightning in the distance, followed by severe rain showers that drenched the softball diamond and eventually halted the host Royals’ attempts at a third consecutive sectional title.

At least, it did for a day or two.

Originally scheduled for today, the Sectional 42 title game was initially moved up 24 hours earlier this week with problematic storms projected throughout the week. The Sectional 42 tournament was revamped from a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday format to consecutive days starting on Monday.

Three games were conducted with Eastern Hancock opening on Monday with a decisive 21-3, five-inning quarterfinals win over rival Knightstown.

The host Royals won their Tuesday semifinal matchup against Heritage Christian, 11-0, in five innings, but Mother Nature didn’t permit a third straight day for the defending champions.

With two outs in the top of the fourth inning on Wednesday, lightning was seen, which prompted a 30-minute delay before heavy rain flooded the field with Eastern Hancock leading Triton Central, 2-0.

The game was postponed until today at 5 p.m. and will resume with no runners on base, two outs and Triton Central’s Brylie Couch up to bat with a 2-2 count.

The title game was originally slated to begin at 5:30 p.m., but due to impending weather, the first pitch was pushed up to 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

“We bumped it up 30 minutes hoping we had a window to get it in, and we just quite didn’t get there, so now it’s kind of like the whole spring season. You have to figure out what steps are next,” Eastern Hancock athletic director Aaron Spaulding said. “Obviously, a tournament game compounds it a bit when normally if it’s regular-season game, it’s one of those where you just don’t get it in. But now we have to find a way to make it up.

“You throw in graduations and things like that and that complicates things. We’re hoping sometime tomorrow or Friday, we can get it in, but we’ll see.”

Rain and rescheduling have been a trend this spring with several weeks of severe storms, flooded fields and various delays for both high school softball and baseball teams throughout Hancock County.

The Royals were looking to wrap up their third consecutive sectional title on Wednesday and a regional berth. If the Royals win sectional, they will host by the regional tournament on Tuesday, but as has been the norm these past two months, they’ll have to play the waiting game for a bit longer.

Eastern Hancock carries a 19-4-1 record and have won four straight games entering the sectional final with Triton Central (11-9), a team they beat 18-1 on the road, April 5.

That 10-run rule victory marked the Royals’ first Mid-Eastern Conference win of the 2022 season en route to a perfect 8-0 league record and third straight conference championship.

“It’s been tough. We’ve missed a lot of games. We’ve had to reschedule a lot of games, but we’ve worked through it and we’ve played through rain before,” EH senior second baseman and Franklin College commit Kaylee Stewart said. “At Franklin County this year, it poured on us there, so we’re kind of used to it at this point, but I wish it was better weather.”

Stewart showcased her ability to work around the wind in the top of the second Wednesday, as she secured the first out while battling a twisting fly ball that danced around mid-air before landing in her glove.

“I really thought it was going farther out, and then that thing just went straight in,” Stewart laughed. “I ran in and got it. I honestly don’t know how I got it. It was definitely up in the sky for a while.”

The Royals plated two runs in the bottom of the first to take the lead behind an RBI single from Sammie Bolding and another RBI hit from Stewart.

Senior Caroline Stapleton opened the frame with a single and a stolen base before Bolding drove her in. Stapleton, a University of Southern Indiana commit, laced a double to start the bottom of the third.

Royals’ left-handed ace Madison Stephens proved dominant before play was stopped. Stephens retired all 11 batters she faced, including six by strikeout.

Stephens induced three pop ups and a pair of ground outs through 3.2 innings pitched.

The Royals coaching staff and administration spent the day preparing the field for play with afternoon rain showers impacting the infield dirt before more rain washed out the contest.

“We got rain right before the game started, so we put quite a bit of field dry on there, so we could get the game started, and knew if it came down again, there was no way. We were going to lose the field pretty quickly,” EH head coach Terry Stephens said.

“Last year, we played sectional and it was boom, boom, boom, we’re done. This year, we had to change the schedule, get two games in on one night and then we’re trying to start early to try to beat the rain and we still get caught by the rain anyway. Now, it’s like, when do we play next?”

With more rain in the forecast for today and Friday, Spaulding knows patience and flexibility are the key, especially after an unseasonably wet spring so far.

“I’ve been athletic director since 2010, and this year has been the second worst we’ve had with rain. It’s just frustrating. It’s frustrating for the kids. It’s frustrating for the coaches. It’s frustrating for the administration because you want to be able to play, but it’s the nature of spring sports,” Spaulding said.