Hitters at the bottom of the order often take on supporting roles, but the 6 through 9 batters for Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont decided to flip the script on their teammates during Thursday afternoon's Class 2A state semifinal round at Rogers Park.
No one was complaining. Not one bit.
Sadie Baugher, Rachel Maloy, Randie Richmond and McKinley Moore seized the starring roles and they led the fifth-ranked Rockets (26-5) to the state finals for the first time in school history with a 6-2 upset win over top-ranked Highland (32-2) on Mittera Field.
The four combined to slug eight of EBF's 12 hits off Huskies' pitcher Katie Jo Springer - including all four of the team's extra-base knocks - and they drove in four runs to help end Highland's 25-game winning streak.
"It feels amazing because I've been working on my batting so much," Baugher, the No. 6 hitter, said after a 3-for-4 effort that included a seventh-inning double and two runs scored. "I haven't been doing that well and now I'm just seeing the ball and hitting it.
"We just have so much confidence right now. We had nothing to lose against the No. 1 ranked team in 2A, and we were just ready."
EBF 030 100 2-6 12 2
Highland 011 000 0-2 6 5
- ?Nataliah Hopkins and Claire Jager. Katie Jo Springer and Courtnee Hahn. W-Hopkins (25-4). L-Springer (28-2). 2B-EBF: Sadie Baugher, Rachel Maloy, Randie Richmond. 3B-EBF: McKinley Moore. RBI-EBF: Maloy (2), Moore (2); H: Katie Chalupa.
Richmond, an eighth-grader in the No. 8 hole, laced a single and double, and Moore ripped a second-inning two-RBI double out of the No. 9 spot. Malloy plated two insurance runs in the seventh with a shot into the gap in right-center for a double.
Reserve Ashley Pilcher also joined in the fun. She pinch-hit for Moore in the seventh and promptly ripped a single into right.
"I am confident in every single batter on our team," Nataliah Hopkins, the Rockets' winning pitcher and clean-up hitter, said. "We're all just one big family and we all depend on each other no matter what number you are in the batting order."
The Rockets' three-run outburst in the second inning put them in command for good. They added an unearned run in the fourth after Highland had trimmed its deficit to 3-2.
The Huskies booted the ball around five times and the errors were costly, as they translated into four unearned runs.
"That's never happened. I don't know how to explain it," Highland head coach Carrie Wieland said. "That's probably the most errors we've had in a game this year.
"I'm really proud we got to this game, but we didn't come to just compete. We came to win the state title."
Haegen Boyer added two singles at the top of the EBF order. Hopkins and Tasha Alexander also singled.
Hopkins twirled a six-hitter and neither of Highland's runs were earned. She struck out four and retired the final 10 batters she faced after she changed her game plan to work the outside corner of the plate.
"We tried a lot of change-ups early and we noticed they were hitting it, so we started focusing on low corners," Hopkins said. "(The home plate umpire) didn't really call the inside pitches, so we went to the outside corner and it just seemed to work for us."
Kelsey Hora accounted for two of the Huskies' hits. Courtnee Hahn, Morgan Craig, Katie Chalupa and Seaira Drish all chipped in one. Chalupa collected an RBI on a third-inning ground out.
Springer accepted the loss in the circle; she walked two and struck out four.
EBF, in the state tourney field for the first time since 1999, will attempt to win its first state crown against second-ranked and 2009 champion Earlham today at 12:15 p.m. on Mittera Field.
Highland will take on No. 3 Woodbury Central in the third-place game at 11:30 a.m. on INS Field.