Royals softball season ends at semi-state

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HUNTINGBURG — Eastern Hancock had too many at ‘em balls.

The Royals, coming off their first regional title since 2016, had their season come to an end at the Class 2A Forest Park Semi-State Saturday, held at Cedar Crest Intermediate School in Huntingburg.

The 2022 campaign ends with a 21-5-1 record following a 2-1 semi-final loss to North Posey, which went on to beat South Vermillion 10-0 in the championship game to earn a spot in the Class 2A state title matchup at Purdue University.

“It seemed like every time we put the ball in play we, literally, hit it right at them,” Eastern Hancock coach Terry Stephens said. “We didn’t hit the ball exceptionally hard, but when we practiced we talked about putting the ball in play.”

Stephens’ Royals were facing North Posey junior pitcher Erin Hoehn, a hard-thrower with a tough change-up. Hoehn is getting some interest from some high Division I programs (Indiana, Michigan).

Hoehn in 95.1 innings pitched this season has 204 strikeouts, giving up just 25 hits and 28 walks.

The Royals held their strikeouts down to seven, but weren’t able to find the gaps in the Vikings defense.

Eastern Hancock had just two hits. Both came from junior Emma Bolding, which included a one-out solo home run in the seventh inning. It was her third home run of the season.

“Seven strikeouts, that’s not horrible considering how many strikeouts (Hoehn) has,” Stephens added. “Our goal was to put the ball in play and keep our strikeouts down as much as possible. I knew, defensively, we could keep the game close.

“You take out that second inning (when the Vikings scored two runs), they hit the ball it seemed where we weren’t. We hit the ball to them every time. You take out that inning, we played really, really well defensively.”

Eastern Hancock junior Madison Stephens gave up seven hits and two earned runs. She struck out four.

It was the final game for four Royal seniors, Caroline Stapleton, Taylor Koch, Kaylee Stewart and Sydni Bednarski, all were in the team’s lineup Saturday.

“That group has never lost a sectional game,” coach Stephens said. “We had the COVID year and I think we would have done well that year, too. They are the winningest group, in a three-year span, to come through Eastern Hancock.

The seniors combined to go 66-14-2 during their three seasons.

“They are going to be a tough group to replace, but the younger girls sitting in the dugout watching have learned a lot from them,” coach Stephens added.

North Posey will take a 24-1 record into the Class 2A title game against Eastside (28-1). They are scheduled to play Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Bittinger Stadium.

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