The Litchfield and Hillsboro softball teams put their rivalry aside for a while on Tuesday, May 7, to show their support for a little girl close to the hearts of both teams.
Both the Panthers and Hiltoppers wore special Grace-Filled Journey shirts in honor of Hillsboro seven-year-old Grace Herschelman, who is battling infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy. The two teams have been some of the Herschelman family's biggest supporters since Grace's diagnosis in 2015 and funds from the T-shirts will go toward INAD research at Washington University. Litchfield also presented the Beckemeyer Elementary School student with a signed softball and a custom softball helmet, complete with a "Believe" decal on the back.
Once the festivities were done though, it was back to the rivalry as the two teams faced off for the second time this season. Hillsboro had won the South Central Conference game between the two clubs on April 12, by an 8-1 final score, but Litchfield was hoping to avenge that loss in round two.
Those hopes were dashed in the early going as Hillsboro scored multiple runs in each of the first four innings to score a 16-3 victory over the Lady Panthers.
The top of the lineup would be on a tear for the Toppers, with the first six batters collecting 13 of the 15 Hillsboro hits. While she didn't get a hit in this at-bat, Haley Major would reach base to start the game, drawing a walk.
Major would steal second, then came around to score two batters later when Kai Hanner contributed an RBI double.
Hanner would move to third when Shelby Houchlei reached on an error, eventually scoring on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
Hillsboro would tack on four more runs in the top of the second, with Faith Holtz and Riley Hemken both reaching base to start the run. In her second at-bat, Major would blast a three-run home run that gave the Toppers a 5-0 lead, one they would never relinquish.
The Toppers added another run for good measure after that, as Katie Schaake singled and scored on Kai Hanner's second double of the game.
Litchfield would stay in contention though, getting two runs with one swing in the bottom of the second. After a single by Carly Boden, Ashley Hickerson went deep and over the fence for her first career home run, making the score 6-2 in Hillsboro's favor.
Any hopes of a comeback were slowed in the third inning though, as the Toppers scored seven runs on six hits and four walks to take a 13-2 lead. Major would collect another RBI, smoking a double off the left-center wall, while Schaake added two RBIs with a single. Chloe Beck and Faith Holtz also had RBI singles in the inning as the rout continued.
After batting around and then some in the third, Hillsboro sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth, with Schaake, Hanner and Houchlei all scoring in the inning. Houchlei would also drive in one of the runs, while the other RBIs came from Sheridan Lyerla with a ground out and Beck with a single.
Up 16-2, Hillsboro looked to maintain their lead and end the game early due to the ten-run rule. Litchfield would get one run back in the bottom of the fifth after Hickerson doubled to deep right-center and scored on a Mackenzie Emerson single to make it 16-3.
That would be as close as the Panthers would get though as Hillsboro starter Katie Schaake got the final three outs to get the win.
Seven of the nine Hillsboro starters would pick up two or more hits, with all nine starters scoring at least one run.
Sheridan Lyerla would go 3-for-5 with a run scored and another driven in, while Haley Major was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and four RBIs. Katie Schaake, Shelby Houchlei, Chloe Beck, Faith Holtz and Kai Hanner would all have two hits apiece as well. Ashley Hickerson would have a career game, going 2-for-2 with a double and a home run, as she was nearly the sole source of the Panther offense on the day.
On the mound, Schaake struck out four and gave up three runs on five hits. Kate Komor pitched for Litchfield, giving up 16 runs (ten earned) on 15 hits and seven walks.
The two teams could meet up for a third time if Litchfield wins their opening game at the Gillespie Regional. The Lady Panthers will play at Carlinville on Monday, May 13, at 4:30 p.m., with the winner going on to play Hillsboro in the regional semifinal in Gillespie on Tuesday, May 14, at 4:30 p.m.
May 7 at Litchfield
Hillsboro 247 30 16 15 1
Litchfield 020 01 3 5 6
Hillsboro IP R ER H K BB
W-Schaake 5 3 2 5 4 0
Litchfield IP R ER H K BB
L-Komor 5 16 10 15 1 7
Multiple Hits: Hillsboro - Sheridan Lyerla (3-5, 1R, 1RBI), Haley Major (2-3, 3R, 4RBI), Katie Schaake (2-3, 2R, 2RBI), Faith Holtz (2-3, 2R), Shelby Houchlei (2-3, 2R, 1RBI), Chloe Beck (2-4, 1R, 2RBI), Kai Hanner (2-4, 2R, 2RBI); Litchfield - Ashley Hickerson (2-2, 2R, 2RBI). 2B: Hillsboro - Kai Hanner 2, Haley Major 1, Shelby Houchlei 1; Litchfield - Ashley Hickerson 1. HR: Hillsboro - Haley Major 1; Litchfield - Ashley Hickerson 1.
Records: Hillsboro (24-3); Litchfield (5-16).