The Hinton softball team nearly saw it's current win streak in the War Eagle Conference come to a halt Friday in Cleghorn, surviving a seventh-inning push by host Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn for the 4-3 win.
The Blackhawks' No. 1 and 2 hitters in the lineup - Delainye Hardersen and Megan Hawthorne - did most of the damage for Hinton Friday and got things rolling in the first as Hardersen led off with a double, moved to third on a Hawthorne sacrifice and later scored on an error.
The two seniors helped build a 3-1 Hinton lead in the top of the third as Hardersen led off with a single, stole second and scored on a Hawthorne single to left field. Senior Tara Christensen bunted Hawthorne to third and a Kaylee Small groundout scored Hawthorne.
The Eagles managed to stay in the game with a run in the bottom of the third, but Hinton seemed to have the game well in hand with another run in the sixth to lead 4-2. Steph Dittmer slapped a one-out single to center field and went to second on a groundout, setting up pinch hitter Morgan McCabe with a runner in scoring position. McCabe delivered with a double to the left field fence, scoring Dittmer.
The game got mighty interesting for coach Phil Skamser and the Blackhawks in the bottom of the seventh, however, as a trio of fielding errors brought one M-M-C run home and left the tying run on second base. Hinton committed an error to start the seventh and then tried to cut down the lead runner at second on a ground ball and missed. With runners on first and second, M-M-C attempted a sacrifice bunt and Hinton threw out the runner at first, then caught the runner at third in a run down for the second out of the inning. M-M-C's next at-bat led to another Hinton fielding error and another run down between third and home. This time, the Blackhawks managed to hit the runner with the ball, allowing a run to score to close the gap to 4-3 with the tying run on second base. Hinton shortstop Shelby Birocci finally ended the drama, snagging a line drive for the final out and securing the Blackhawks' sixth straight conference win.
Jessica DeRocher went the distance on the mound for Hinton, allowing three runs (none earned) on three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. DeRocher has been called upon over the past few games for extra duty with Allyssa Eickholt on the shelf and has flourished in her more pronounced role.
"That's definitely helped her that she's been able to work some things out with the extra innings," said Skamser. "When you're in there a lot, you can get your drop ball going and your specialty pitches going more. We still like having two pitchers around, though."
DeRocher was backed with 11 Hinton hits as Hawthorne recorded three, adding two RBIs. Hardersen also had two hits and two runs scored, while Britni Freed contributed two hits.
The offense and defense have both been suspect at times for Hinton - now winners of eight of their last nine games - but Skamser is hopefully that the time remains to correct both before the postseason.
"The hitting sometimes is pretty fickle for us and defensively we've had opportunities to give it away and almost have," said Skamser. "I'm not sure if there's a good explanation for it. We just have to keep our attention on those things."