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On to the 'ship

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Union County shortstop Tara Williams eyes a ground ball against Northeastern in the semifinals of the Class 2A Sectional 41 tournament, Wednesday in Liberty. UC pitcher Rainey Shepler forced the Lady Knights into hitting 10 ground ballsthroughoutthe game. Williams and the Lady Patriots won the game, 5-3.
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Union County freshman Madison Gray sets herself for a bunt in a semifinal game of the Class 2A Sectional 41 game against Northeastern on Wednesday. Gray and the Patriots defeated the Knights, 5-3.
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Union County outfielder Fayth Hill fields a base hit in a Class 2A Sectional 41 semifinal game against Northeastern, Wednesday evening in Liberty. Hill collected an RBI in UC’s 5-3 win over the Lady Knights.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

LIBERTY — Injuries have had a large impact on the Union County softball line-up throughout the 2018 season.

On Wednesday evening, head coach Scott Gray and the Lady Patriots put all those bumps and bruises on the line, facing Tri-Eastern Conference foe Northeastern in the semifinal round of the Class 2A Sectional 41 tournament on their home field.

Unable to put hurlers Fayth Hill and Roya Walton on the mound, due to injuries, Gray handed the ball to Rainey Shepler for the postseason opener.

No problem there.

The UC junior scattered six hits and kept the Lady Knights off the scoreboard much of the way to lead the Patriots to a 5-3 victory, propelling the team into the sectional championship game.

“This was a hard-fought battle. We knew that they had some dangerous hitters in their line-up,” Gray said. “I thought Rainey did a terrific job for us, changing speeds and keeping them off balance. She forced them into a lot of ground balls and pop-ups when we needed them.”

Union County was first on the board, as back-to-back singles by Tori Russell and Kristin Klein in the first inning set the table for RBIs by Haylee Richards and Shepler.

The 2-0 lead was halved in the second, as Northeastern’s Jesseca Burns reached on an error. Kelsey Cottongim then chased her home with a single, one batter later.

Russell and Klein got another rally started for the Patriots in the third inning, the pair leading off the frame with walks. Richards drove both of them home with a double, before scoring herself two batters later on a single by Hill.

Hill was batting with an injury severe enough, that the junior was swinging her bat with one arm.

“Fayth can’t pitch for us due to her injury, and she’s limited with her throwing and in the batter’s box, batting one-handed. But her eye at the plate is good enough that she can draw a walk, get a bunt down or do a little butcher-boy play like we did tonight.


“She is still a very viable part of this line-up, as she’s the kind of player that can make things happen.”

Even with the 5-1 lead, Gray pointed out that he wasn’t as comfortable as he would have liked.

“We kept telling the girls that we didn’t think that five (runs) was enough, and that we were going to have to add on,” he said. “Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. We were blessed by a couple of their girls swinging a little bit early and popping balls up, helping us get out of some tough innings.

In the sixth, the Knights sent six batters to the plate, scoring two of them, as lead-off hitters Chaise Helton and Leah Hoskins reached and wound up circling the bases.

Northeastern would get a runner aboard with one out in the seventh, but a pop-up to shortstop Tara Williams and a ground out to third-baseman Richards ended the game.

Following the game, coach Gray placed praise on his hot-corner player.

“I thought Haylee had a great game at third base,” he said. “She not only made plays at that position, but also held a couple runners there on ground balls. In both cases, those runners wound up being stranded there at third base.”

The Patriots wound up with six hits in the game

In the championship game, Union County faced Centerville on Thursday evening (results not available).

Win or lose, Gray said on Wednesday that he believed that, whater his line-up looked like in the title game, his charges would give him their best.

“These girls won’t quit,” he said. “They just keep driving and doing whatever it takes to get better. We’ve moved kids around to different positions, and they’ve just taken it as the next-girl-up mentality, and stepped up in whatever role they’re in. It’s been really good for us.” 



(at Union County High School)


Lady Patriots 5, Lady Knights 3

Knightstown 010 002 0 — 3 6 1

Union County 203 000 x — 5 6 3

WP: Rainey Shepler

LP: Madison Kinder

Northeastern (4-13) — Lauren York 1-4, Brianna Shepard 2-4, Chaise Helton 0-4, Leah Hoskins 1-3, Lena Smith 0-3, Madison Kinder 0-3, Sidney Dill 0-0, Jesseca Burns 1-3, Kelsey Cottongim 1-3, KyLee Dixon 0-3, Rebecca Schneider 0-0. Totals 6-30 (.200).

Union County (13-12) — Tara Williams 0-3, Tori Russell 1-2, Kristin Klein 1-2, Haylee Richards 1-3, Rainey Shepler 0-3, Fayth Hill 1-3, Madison Gray 0-3, Kayla Campbell 1-3, Maddie Hoke 1-3, Kyane Alcorn 0-0. Totals 6-25 (.240).

3B — Northeastern 1 (Shepard). 2B — Northeastern 1 (Shepard), Union County 1 (Richards). RBI — Northeastern 2 (Cottongim, Smith), Union County 5 (Richards 3, Shepler, Hill). Runs — Northeastern 3 (Helton, Hoskins, Burns), Union County 5 (Russell 2, Klein 2, Richards).