Royals open sectional play with commanding win

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Eastern Hancock’s Brooklyn Willis returned to the lineup Monday and had a big night for the Royals in their sectional opening win over Shenandoah.

The Daily Reporter File Photo

LIBERTY — The outcome, and the numbers on the scoreboard were almost the same, but the way in which Eastern Hancock’s softball team got to that point was much different.

And this time it came on a much bigger stage.

The Royals nearly matched a 15-0 win over Shenandoah earlier in the season, with a 14-0 win over the Raiders in the quarterfinals of IHSAA Class 2A Sectional 41 at Union County.

“I watched that whole game again today, and we played better today. When I went back and watched, I saw that Shenandoah helped us a lot in that game. They made a lot of mistakes that kept innings going for us, or took them out of innings,” Eastern Hancock head coach Terry Stephens said. “That didn’t happen today. The runs we scored, we did on our own without any help.”

It didn’t take long for the offense of the ninth-ranked Royals to put some of those runs on the board.

In her first game back from a shoulder injury suffered on May 5 against Lapel, Brooklyn Willis singled in Sammie Bolding to put Eastern Hancock up 1-0 just two batters into the game.

That was the beginning of a night that saw the Royals offense hit up and down the entire lineup.

The Royals’ 14 runs came on 12 hits. Six different batters recorded a hit, and six knocked in a run.

“We’ve been talking all year about adjusting to the pitcher. We’ve got to get that mentality to just swing hard no matter what the pitch is, and have to adjust whether it’s an inside pitch, outside pitch, or off-speed pitch,” coach Stephens said. “They did that all really well.”

Lilli Ringer kept the first inning going with a triple to score Willis, and Emma Bolding brought her in with a sacrifice fly to give Eastern Hancock starting pitcher Madison Stephens an early 3-0 cushion to work with.

That was more than her, and the rest of the Royals pitching staff, would need.

She struck out the first five batters she faced, and was pulled in the fourth inning with a perfect game going. She faced 11 batters, struck out six, and had just one ball leave the infield.

“I knew she was throwing a perfect game, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry than a perfect game. We were just trying to save some pitches,” coach Stephens said. “She did pretty well tonight. There were some rise balls that were flat, but other than that her changeup looked good, screwball looked good, and curveball looked good. Her rise ball wasn’t quite a 10, but we’ll get it there.”

Tatem Adams relieved her, and recorded four straight outs to end things.

Shenandoah’s Elise Boyd singled in the first at bat against Adams, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. In the fifth, Adams sent the Raiders down in order.

The three first-inning runs might have been enough, but the Royals offense didn’t stop there.

A six-run third, in which Eastern Hancock sent 11 batters to the plate, broke the game wide open.

Again, it was Sammie Bolding and Willis starting things off at the top of the order. After a double, Sammie Bolding stole third and scored on a throwing error. A few pitches later, Willis sent one over the fence for her seventh home run of the season.

“We thought [Willis] was ready to come back on Saturday, but it got rained out. Normally she’s in our lead off spot, so I thought I’d bat her second to let her see someone bat in front of her, but it’s just like riding a bike for that girl,” the coach said. “She’s our leader in the outfield and the leading force in our offense in the leadoff spot, so she’s pretty important.”

After another Ringer triple, and an Emma Bolding walk, Kaylee Kline crushed a three-run home run to increase the Royals lead to 8-0. And after batting around, Sammie Bolding singled in Grace Stapleton with her second hit of the inning.

The Royals added four more in the fourth, and one in the fifth.

Kline’s second home run of the game, this time a two-run shot, highlighted the fourth inning, and a Sammie Bolding solo home run in the fifth capped off her perfect night at the plate.

She finished 3-for-3 with a single, double, home run, and two RBIs. Kline’s two home runs and five RBIs led the Royals.

Willis recorded two hits and two RBIs in her return, Emma Bolding had two RBIs, Stapleton notched two singles, Addisyn Trackwell added a hit, and Emily Hodges had a base knock.

The Royals will face Northeastern in the semifinals today at 5:30 p.m.

Eastern Hancock 14, Shenandoah 0

Eastern Hancock (20-6);306;41; — ;14;12;0

Shenandoah (16-8);000;00; — ;0;1;3

Madison Stephens, Tatem Adams (4) and Kaylee Kline; Emma Whittenburg, Olivia Watson (3), Lydia Schwagmeier (4) and Alyssa Allen. 2B: EH – Sammie Bolding. 3B: EH – Lilli Ringer 2. HR: EH – Brooklyn Willis (7), Kline 2 (7), S. Bolding (14). WP: Stephens (12-1). LP: Whittenburg (4-1).