BANGOR — Hillsboro’s stay in the WIAA Division 4 softball playoffs was brief.
Fourth-seeded and host Bangor scored the winning run on a throwing error in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk off with a 7–6 victory in regional quarterfinal last Wednesday afternoon.
Hillsboro pitcher Brittany Borchardt erased the Cardinals’ leadoff batter on a ground ball to begin the seventh.
Hillsboro head coach Mike Burch then chose to intentionally walk two-time Scenic Bluffs Player of the Year Morgan Horstman, who was already 2-for-2 with a three-run home run in the game.
Horstman promptly stole second and was attempting to steal third when the next Bangor batter hit a ground ball to third. The throw from third was wide of the bag at first and Horstman scored the winning run.
“It really didn’t matter that the throw from third was wild,” explained Burch. “Horstman was going to score on that play regardless. She is such a great athlete with outstanding instincts. She was already rounding third base when our fielder was releasing the ball across the diamond to first base. Had it been a perfect throw, I really don’t believe that our first baseman would have had time to return a throw to home in time to get Horstman out at the plate. She’s just that fast and that good of player.”
“In hindsight, I now wish I would have brought Lexi Mathis in to pitch when Horstman came to the plate,” added Burch. “Brittany pitched a whale of game and I couldn’t have asked for her to do any more than what she did. Lexi is a little faster and Horstman had just one hit off of her in the first meeting this year. Instead of the intentional walk, we could have tried our luck making her hit her way on base. Then again, she could have crushed her second home run of the game and I look even more foolish. I now have a year to think that move over.”
Hillsboro scored the game’s first run in the top of the first, but Horstman hit a long three-run homer to left field in the bottom of the first to give the Cardinals a 3–1 lead.
In the top of the first, Hillsboro junior Mackenzie Sullivan singled. Freshman Sydney Johnson then layed down a bunt. The Cardinal pitcher fielded the bunt, threw wild to first base, allowing Sullivan to come all the way around to score the game’s first run.
Bangor (15–9) then scored single runs in the second, third and sixth innings.
The Tigers scored three runs playing small ball in the fourth inning.
Sierra Hanke led off with a single and Huntley drew a walk. Then Borchardt put down a SAC bunt, which caused another fielding error, allowing Hanke to score.
Shania Landsinger followed with another bunt and reached safely, loading the bases. Mathis hit a single to score Huntley. Seeley then executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt for a RBI to pull Hillsboro within a run at 5–4.
The Tigers scored twice more in the fifth to take a 6–5 lead.
Johnson and Destiny Shore hit back-to-back lead off singles to lead off the inning. Following a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Hanke to erase Johnson, Huntley singled to score Shore. A SAC fly from Borchardt drove in Hanke and gave the Tigers their first lead since the top of the first inning.
Bangor tied the game in with two outs in the sixth. Opposing pitcher Emma Wittmerhaus singled to left. The ball got by Hillsboro’s left fielder and Wittmerhaus ended up at third base on the play. A wild pitch on the next batter allowed the tying run to score.
Johnson led of the Hillsboro seventh with a double to left centerfield and it appeared that Hillsboro was poised to regain the lead. However, the Tigers were retired in order on a pop-up to the pitcher, a strike out and a ground ball to short.
Bangor was eliminated from the playoffs the very next day with a 3–2 regional semifinal loss at second-seeded Wonewoc–Center. Top-seeded and SBC champion Cashton (22–1) defeated Wonewoc–Center 12–1 in six innings Friday to win the regional title.
The Tigers finished the season 10–9 overall after going 7–7 in the SBC.
“We picked up 10 wins this season and the girls have no reason to hang their heads,” said Burch. “We made a lot of improvements this year and I can see that next year is going to be very exciting. I see no reason that we can’t give Cashton a run for the title in 2016.”