HILLSBORO — Vinton County did everything right in this game and had all momentum for five innings. Then everything changed in the sixth.
The Vikings made two critical fielding errors, which ended up scoring two runs and couldn’t recover in a 2-1 loss to Hillsboro on Saturday.
“This was the type of game you want once you get to May,” Vinton County coach Jeremy Ward said. “It was a great pitching matchup and both teams made big plays in big spots. We got runners on, but couldn’t get those runners in and it cost us.”
Vinton County’s Abby Faught and Hillsboro’s Kayla Roberts rarely ran into any trouble, spending most of the afternoon recording strikeouts at a high level.
Despite runners occasionally getting on, Faught battled her way through and coming out on the other end mostly unscathed. She gave up just six hits and struck out eight batters.
Roberts on the flip side, much like Faught, had her stuff working like a charm. The Vikings were kept off balance with a mix of off speed pitches and near perfect pitching placement.
That combo led to her allowing just five hits, but striking out 12 batters.
“She’s undoubtedly the best pitcher we’ve faced all season,” Ward said. “She hit her spots and got out of jams nearly every time. Shows why they’ve won 16-17 games this season.”
Jumping ahead to the bottom of the fifth inning, Hillsboro had the bases loaded following a single, double and an intentional walk with no outs and the top of the lineup coming to the dish.
If there was a time to strike for the Indians it was right there, but Faught was having not of that on her watch.
She locked in and struck out the next two batters. Then, she had a hard hit groundball hit back at her, which knocked her to the ground. However, she stayed with it and got the out to escape danger.
“Abby has thrown the ball much better recently and when she’s hitting her spots, we’re in every game,” Ward said. “Working out of that jam in the fifth was a huge spot for us in a scoreless game at the time. That gave us momentum and we had to capitalize. She pitched a great game and has started to find her rhythm again.”
Sydney Smith managed to draw a two-out walk and stole second base to put herself in scoring position.
Then Gracie Peters stepped up and laced an RBI double to right field, scoring Smith for the first run of the game that gave the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
However, that momentum was short lived. Vinton County committed a fielding error to put Hillsboro’s leadoff batter on base.
Then after a single put another runner on base, Hillsboro seemingly grounded out to first base. However, the home plate umpire said that no tag was applied to the runner so she was ruled safe at first to load the bases.
The next batter grounded out to first, but the lead runner scored to tie the game 1-1. Another RBI groundout followed to put the Indians ahead 2-1, and ultimately ice the game in the top of the seventh.
“We can’t have sequences like that late in games at this stage of the season anymore,” Ward said. “We made our first error, and it was a domino effect. Although that second error wasn’t an error, it was a weird call that didn’t go our way for some reason.
“We gave up two runs and the ball didn’t even reach a base, it was just little dribblers and we made a play. But just didn’t make the right play.”
Peters finished 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI, while Smith had a double and a run scored.
Vinton County returns to action on Wednesday at River Valley, Thursday against Oak Hill and Friday against Athens at home before turning its attention to tournaments.
The Vikings received a No. 8 seed and will host 9-seeded McClain on Monday.