Postseason nemesis Brownstown ousts Royals in softball semi-state

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Eastern Hancock’s Brooklyn Willis hit her school-record 18th home run of the season in the Royals semi-state game against Brownstown Central Saturday.

The Daily Reporter File Photo

For the second time this school year an outstanding season by an Eastern Hancock sports team came to an end just shy of reaching a state championship game — and again — the culprit was Brownstown Central High School.

On a rain-soaked Saturday at Cedar Crest Intermediate School in Huntingburg, Eastern Hancock’s softball team, ranked No. 3 in the Class 2A Softball Coaches Association of Indiana poll, lost 7-5 to Brownstown Central in a Class 2A South Semi-State semifinal game.

Brownstown Central lost later in the evening to No. 1 Cascade, which earned the southern portion of the state’s spot in the Class 2A state championship game.

One game away from reaching the state championship contest during girls basketball season, Eastern Hancock lost 45-29 to Brownstown Central in the semi-state championship in February.

“(They) got us in basketball in the semi-state championship and having girls on the softball team that were part of the basketball game (Brooklyn Willis and Sammie Bolding), we were hoping it was a redemption game at the same time. Unfortunately we were three runs shy of making that redemption game a ‘W’ on our side,” Eastern Hancock coach David Trackwell said.

On Saturday, Eastern Hancock held Brownstown Central to just four hits, but two were three-run home runs.

The Royals had answered the Braves twice, but a three-run homer to left field by Kinzee Dean in the fifth inning broke a 4-4 tie and gave Brownstown the lead for good.

“We did a good job of minimizing hits, unfortunately the ones they did have were extremely impactful,” Treadwell said. “If circumstances were different we don’t get ourselves in that situation. All season, outside of our first game against (Class 4A) Brownsburg, we only allowed five runs once, and that was against 4A New Pal, everybody else was four runs or under the entire season, 25-26 games. If we were playing in conditions the game is intended to be played in, I have a lot of faith in my team that we would come out the winner.”

Playing in a downpour, the teams got one scoreless inning in to start the game before it was halted. After a three-to-four hour delay, the game resumed.

With Class 3A semi-state games postponed just a few minutes away in Jasper and 4A games played in Bedford on an artificial turf field moved to Monday, Trackwell thought the same should have been done in 2A, rather than playing in less than ideal conditions.

“To get to that point in your season and to work so hard and have to deal with that kind of loss definitely burns. I was in utter shock that we even had to play the game,” Treadwell said. “I thought it was unacceptable on the IHSAA’s part, Forest Park’s portion of it, the whole thing. I think they made a very bad decision and cheated some of these girls out of their hard work.

“I don’t understand at all why they did what they did. It didn’t make any sense when everybody else around you was cancelling. I can’t make any sense of it. They wouldn’t play under those circumstances in a regular season game, to do that in a semi-state game, that’s just insanity.”

When the game resumed, Brownstown scored three times in the second inning. After a pair of walks, Olivia Justice hit a three-run home run to center field. The Royals came right back with three in the bottom half of the inning.

Lilli Ringer and Emily Hodges drew walks. With one out, Alina Alford singled to center field. Ringer scored, but Hodges was thrown out at third base. Cameron Spegal and Camryn Blue followed with hits. Alford scored on Blue’s hit up the middle and Spegal, after an errant throw following a cutoff, was able to come across with the tying run.

In the third inning, Brownstown Central regained the lead. Brooke Meahl reached on a one-out error. With two away, Kyndle Huddleston singled. Dean followed with a double to center field to score Meahl with the go-ahead run.

It took the Royals just one swing in the bottom half of the frame to tie the game. With two outs, Ringer hit a pitch over the right-center field fence to make the score 4-4.

In the fifth, Brownstown leadoff hitter and pitcher Kelsey Schneider reached on a dropped third strike. Meahl got on with a walk. The Royals almost got out of trouble. Tatem Adams relieved starting pitcher Kenna Stewart. She struck out Rylee May and got Huddleston to pop out, but Dean followed with the game’s biggest hit and the Braves second three-run home run of the game.

Eastern Hancock had runners on in each of its final three at-bats, but were only able to plate one run.

In the fifth, all-stater Willis singled to right field and moved to second on a passed ball, but the next three hitters were retired.

In the sixth, Hodges hit a double to left field, but was left stranded at third base after the next three batters were unable to reach.

In the last at-bat, Willis set a school record with her 18th home run of the season. It cut the lead to 7-5. Addisyn Trackwell drew a two-out walk, but the Braves followed by getting the game’s final out.

“We left a lot of girls on base, definitely unfortunate,” coach Treadwell said. We tried some smallball and either got the ball down and it rolled foul, or just didn’t capitalize in those situations to get some extra runs in. We hit the ball hard, but it seemed we either hit the ball right at them or we just got under it. One of those things where luck is still involved in the game, it’s got to bounce your way and go just right for you and it didn’t. It’s one of those where we didn’t have luck on our side.”

The Royals finished the year 26-3. Brownstown Central improved to 19-11 but were beaten 14-2 by the top-ranked Cadets in the championship game. Cascade will play Monday’s Hebron-Lapel winner in the state championship game later this weekend at Bittinger Stadium at Purdue University.

“(I) came on staff (as an assistant) with Terry (Stephens) when the seniors were freshmen,” the coach added. “Coaching them for four years now and seeing them go off was definitely extremely emotional. We all cried together. We told some stories, good and bad, and tried to make it light and had tears of joy at the same time.

“(I) Told them they had nothing to hold their heads low on. They did a phenomenal job and did their school and their families proud. They never quit. They always fought through all seven innings, or 10. They are all going to go on and do big things with their lives.”

Eastern Hancock graduated six seniors, including two all-staters in Willis and Bolding, who are going to play at the University of Indianapolis and Toledo, respectively. Adams is headed to play at Goshen College and Hodges plans to play at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Alford is going to Lincoln Trail College.

Spegal graduates and is going to college, but not continuing her softball career.

Brownstown Central 7, Eastern Hancock 5

Brownstown Central (19-11);031;003;0;—;7;4;1

Eastern Hancock (26-3);031;000;1;—;5;8;2

Kelsey Schneider and Olivia Justice. Kenna Stewart, Tatem Adams (5) and Camryn Blue. 2B: BC – Kinzee Dean; EH – Emily Hodges HR: BC – Justice (3), Dean (3); EH – Lilli Ringer (4), Brooklyn Willis (18). WP: Schneider (10-7). LP: Stewart (12-2).