Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Unioto coach Rob Hull will be the first to tell you that his Shermans and Hillsboro had more than just a season-opening win on the line on Monday.
While it’s — obviously — extremely early in the season, tournament seeding implications were at stake and both teams played like it.
It took an extra frame to do so, but in the end, Hull’s Shermans (1-0) pulled out a 6-5 win over the Indians in eight innings — thanks to a game-winning RBI double off the bat of Alexis Book.
“We’ve talked about it. I don’t hold anything back from the girls,” Hull said. “Coming into this, we talked about seed games. As we’re playing these Division II teams, every game counts for us. Games like tonight contribute to what our ranking can be at the end of the season. So we talked about coming out and playing well, and beating the teams we’re going to play in our district.”
Book took that talk to heart.
The sophomore center fielder picked up where she left off last year, willing the team’s offense to production. She finished the night 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored, two RBIs and two stolen bases.
But it was an at-bat before Book’s eighth-inning heroics that gave her the chance to play the hero.
Unioto’s Halle Uhrig worked a nine-pitch walk to begin the bottom of the eighth, fighting off delivery after delivery from Hillsboro hurler Kayla Roberts. She then scored the winning run on Book’s laser into right-center field.
“Halle has done very well throughout all of our scrimmages,” Hull said. “She’s hitting the ball hard but she’s hitting it right at people. Just having some bad luck. We told her to go up there and put a good at-bat together. Good things are going to happen. Her luck is finally running the right way. But that nine-pitch at-bat, for her to battle through, it shows the type of team we are.”
Tale of the tape
Hillsboro (0-1) hung a three-spot in the top of the first inning — runs that came on a two-run double from Kensey Gilliland and an RBI from Jo Myers.
Down 3-0, the Shermans battled back with two of their own scores in the bottom half of the first. Senior Avery Miller knocked in Book with a single before sophomore Megan Miller brought Miller around with an RBI triple into deep left field.
In the second, Book laced a two-out RBI single into right field, plating Ava Dettwiller, to force a 3-3 tie. Unioto then took its first lead at 5-3 in the third, scoring a pair of runs on a trio of Hillsboro errors.
That count stood until the top of the fifth when Hillsboro cleaned the slate with two runs coming on a two-run single off Gracey Dearmon’s bat.
Each team then traded at-bats until Uhrig drew the eighth inning walk, setting the stage for Book to, quite literally, close the book.
“We constantly work to get better,” Hull said. “That was the message in the last at-bat. We told the girls that if they get a sign, they had better do their job. That’s what we’re going to turn around and work on in practice. Should we have executed in the fifth and sixth innings? Yes. But to come back and keep our composure in a game like this, that’s big.”
After Book’s big night at the plate, Megan Miller finished 1-for-4 with a triple and an RBI, Avery Miller went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run, and Abbie Marshall ended the night 1-for-4 with a triple and a run.
Hannah Hull picked up the win in the circle, going the distance and striking out five.
Hillsboro was led offensively by Dearmon, who was 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Gilliland followed, finishing 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, while Roberts was 2-for-4 with two runs.
Roberts took the pitching loss, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and whiffing six.
What’s on tap
The Shermans are back in action Tuesday evening, making a trip to Washington Court House, while Hillsboro looks for its first win on Wednesday at Western Brown.
“We’re wanting to build off today,” Hull said. “In our last few scrimmages, we’re really starting to hit the ball well. We hit the ball well at times tonight but I do want to take our strikeout count down tonight. So we want to go in tomorrow and really take off at the plate.”