Sectional Preview: Will the Royals return?

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Eastern Hancock senior Brooke Walden led the team in average and home runs this season. Photos provided by Amy West.

Will the Eastern Hancock Royals return to semistate for the second straight year? That is one of the biggest questions surrounding the county as sectional softball begins tonight.

The sectional won’t likely be the problem, although Class 2A No. 11 Eastern Hancock won’t take anything for granted. Last year, the Royals used two wins and 44 runs to blow past the opening phase of the tournament, setting up a matchup with state-ranked Union County in regional play.

The regional, which was at Union County last season, will again be the real test. Union County, ranked No. 2, will be out for some postseason redemption if Eastern Hancock, or both teams for that matter, make it back. Last year, the Royals escaped with a 7-6 win.

The Royals and Patriots have already played once this season, with Union County winning 5-3 on May 13.

After the win over No. 1 Henryville to begin semistate competition last year, Eastern Hancock fell 3-2 in an eight-inning heartbreaker to eventual state champion Evansville Mater Dei.

It was painful, but it was also a learning experience. With the majority of its roster back this season, led by seniors Kaysi Gilbert, Brooke Walden and Peyton West, Eastern Hancock has a legitimate shot to return to where it left off last season.

You think they forgot the pain of being a single run away from a state finals birth? Not a chance.

Why They Will

The three seniors mentioned above, Gilbert, Walden and West, are as good as any players in the area. Depending on what first-year head coach Pat Medler decides to do defensively, the senior trio will likely be spread across in the infield.

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West, who was the team’s catcher last season, has spent time at various positions this year but will likely start at shortstop. Gilbert and Walden will take their usual spots at second and third base, respectively, helping form a strong defensive core.

They aren’t bad offensively, either. Walden leads the team with a .532 average at the plate. She finished her final season with seven home runs, nine doubles and 28 RBIs. Gilbert hit .418 with nine doubles, 22 RBIs and 30 runs scored. The second baseman also hit four home runs. West led the team with two triples and also finished with six doubles and two home runs. The senior hit .371 with 23 hits and 24 runs scored.

Also keep an eye on junior Micah Black and sophomore Eriel Truitt. Both are strong, athletic defenders who also play key positions. Truitt will start behind the plate, while Black, depending on what Medler does with West, will start in centerfield.

Black led the team with 31 RBIs this season and hit .483 overall. She also finished with five doubles and four home runs.

Why They Won’t

Inexperienced pitching. As simple as it sounds, in high school softball anyway, pitching makes a huge difference – especially late in the postseason. Every player and team can hit. But can you keep them from scoring runs at will?

The Royals (18-6-1), who relied heavily on the arm of 2016 senior pitcher Darby Shaw last season, allowed five or more runs in nine games this year.

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Sophomore Elise Bittinger (69.2 innings) and freshman Jessi Potts (54.1 innings) logged the most time on the mound. Bittinger finished with a 1.81 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 17 appearnces, while Potts recorded a 5.02 ERA with 25 stikeouts in 12 appearances.

Although the outcome of each game won’t rely solely on Bittinger and Potts, the pair can make an impact by limiting innings full of crooked numbers.


Sectional 42 at Heritage Christian

Monday: Triton Central vs. Broad Ripple, 5 p.m.

Monday: Irvington Prep vs. Heritage Christian, after G1

Tuesday: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 5 p.m.

Tuesday: Eastern Hancock vs. Howe, after G3

Wednesday: Championship, 5:30 p.m.

Sectional 26 at New Palestine

Monday: New Palestine vs. Herron, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Manual vs. Brebeuf Jesuit, 5 p.m.

Wednesday: Winner G1 vs. Bishop Chatard, after G2

Thursday: Championship, 6 p.m.

Sectional 9 at Greenfield-Central

Monday: New Castle vs. Pendleton Heights, 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Greenfield-Central vs. Muncie Central, after G1

Tuesday: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Richmond vs. Anderson, after G3

Thursday: Championship, 6 p.m.

Sectional 10 at Mt. Vernon

Monday: Lawrence North vs. Cathedral, 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Mt. Vernon vs. Warren Central, after G1

Tuesday: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Tech vs. Lawrence Central, after G1

Wednesday: Championship, 7 p.m.


Kris Mills is a sports writer at Eastside Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KrisMills37.



Categories: Local, Scores & Schedules

2 replies

  1. Would be nice to know who plays 1st base? One of the Sr’s? Freshman? Just curious?

    • Mark, thank you for your comment. Next time we do an article similar to this, we will make sure that more information will be provided. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope that you continue to stick with us at Eastside Sports.

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