Southwestern routs Hillsboro for sectional crown, checks out
By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Respect had been reduced. Concerns were in play. Vulnerability was detected. Needless to say, May 3 was a day of decimation. After losing a conference title at the hands of their rivals from Hillsboro, the Southwestern Lady Piasa Birds earned the opportunity to redeem themselves and prove to the world how much of the real deal they were expected to be.
First things first, the Lady Birds had to dodge the Williamsville Lady Bullets in the sectional semifinals. Bailee Nixon ensured this would happen by chalking up 12 strikeouts over the course of a two-hit shutout. Southwestern advanced with a 2-0 triumph.
The conference championship may have belonged to future St. Louis Billiken Kai Hanner of the Lady Hiltoppers – who came in with a microscopic 1.06 earned run season pitching average, but the Lady Birds treated Saturday’s rematch as a fresh start and pounded their way to a 10-0 statement in five innings. Nixon stayed locked in and limited the Lady Toppers to three hits on the hill en route to her second complete-game shutout of the tourney. This was the ultimate redemption, especially against a squad that had previously stopped a 19-game winning streak for the Birds to end the regular season.
Bri Roloff got Southwestern on the board early with an RBI triple in the opening frame. Hanner then threw a wild pitch to the backstop to make it 2-0. The snowball continued to roll at a torrid pace. Then, it skyrocketed down a hill in the fifth. The Lady Birds exploded for a ‘lucky seven’ and put the final nail in the coffin.
Although she had a lot of respect for Hillsboro going in, Southwestern coach Peg Mitchell came with a lot of confidence that this was going to be the end result.
“They are a tremendous team. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but I knew of the way this team can hit and the way that we did not hit the first time. So, I knew that there would be a vengeance. There’s good attitudes and bad attitudes, and they had that attitude today that we were coming after them,” Mitchell said following Saturday’s win.
“They are a good hitting team and we had to be on top of our game. They came out and Mayci Wilderman got on with a double and they ended up getting a couple out of the chute. We hoped Kai would settle down and we’d be able to have the entire game to get those back. But, we never could get the bats going. Their pitcher is very tough too,” said Hillsboro coach Bret Tuetken.
Southwestern went on to lose 4-1 against Olympia at the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Super Sectional in Athens. The Lady Birds were previously defeated by the opposing Lady Spartans in state championship play on two separate occasions (2003, 2009).
Southwestern ends the 2019 season with a record of 24-3 overall.
The Southwestern Lady Piasa Birds’ softball team celebrates with the plaque following a 10-0 win over Hillsboro at the IHSA Class 2A sectional championship in Litchfield. Enquirer Democrat Photo by Jackson Wilson.