It was appropriate that Hampshire's regional semifinal softball game against Sycamore came down to the last pitch Monday. The Whip-Purs and Spartans had battled back and forth for six innings before two dramatic turns in the seventh decided it.
Hampshire rallied for 4 runs in the top of the seventh to go ahead 8-7, only to watch the host Spartans score the winning run with two outs in the bottom half.
Taylor Jones' single drove in the 2 runs to give No. 4 seed Sycamore the walk off 9-8 victory and a semifinal matchup against top-seeded Burlington Central today at 4:30 p.m.
Trailing 7-4, Hampshire opened the seventh with 5 straight hits. Becca Hurst and Jen Hurst drove in a run apiece and Alyssa Snider's hard grounder up the middle scored 2, putting the Whip-Purs ahead.
Losing pitcher Jen Hurst got two quick outs to start the seventh, retiring Brittany Huber and Jasmine Taylor, who had been a combined 5-for-7. Then pinch-hitter McKenna Marcinkowski blooped a single into no man's land in right field. Hampshire appeared to get a break when Paige Bjork's screamer one-hopped over the temporary fence in right field for a ground-rule double. Hurst then got ahead of Jones 1-and-2 before Jones dropped a 9-iron into left field to score both runners.
"We just didn't come ready to go defensively," said Hampshire coach Stacey Stepek. "Jen pitched a great game. I don't know how many of their runs were earned. Sycamore played well, they dropped in the hits when they needed them. We did the same, we just couldn't back our pitcher on some big plays. We threw to some wrong bases, missed a few pop-ups that were crucial."
Hampshire finished the season 11-19, but didn't go down without a fight. After falling behind 2-0 on Huber's home run to center field, Hampshire went ahead in the third. Jordan Hook's ground-rule double drove in Sara Finn with the Whips' first run, and Becca Hurst followed with a 2-run double.
But Sycamore kept up the offensive pressure. The Spartans scored in five of the seven innings. In the other two, they left the bases loaded. Things could have been worse for Hampshire, as Sycamore left 13 runners on base.
Finn, Hook and both Hursts had 2 hits apiece for Hampshire.