PEARL CITY – Hiawatha softball pitcher Alexis Ross wore a smile in the away dugout, even after the Hawks were eliminated from the Class 1A playoffs by Amboy on Tuesday.
Ross, a freshman, allowed seven runs in three innings, before being pulled in the fourth with no outs. Even though she took the loss, she was happy to be able pitch in the biggest game of her young career.
"I was pretty nervous coming in," Ross said. "In the future I won't be as nervous, but it's really exciting to be able to get here and all we had to do to get here."
The Clippers put the game out of reach with an 11-run fourth inning to cruise to a 13-0, five-inning win over Hiawatha in the Class 1A Pearl City Sectional semifinals.
The loss ended the Hawks' exciting season, one that started out with many questions.
"Coming into the season I took a look at the roster, and we had a lot of underclassmen," Hiawatha coach David Tamraz said. "It looked like it was going to be a rebuilding year, but what we got was the exact opposite."
The Hawks hit their stride during the playoffs, cruising through the regional semifinal with a 21-3 win, and edged out a 6-5 win over Alden-Hebron in their regional final, in what Tamraz called, "The best game we've played all season."
But that play changed against Amboy, who used an aggressive approach at the plate and on the basepaths to keep the pressure on the young Hawks, who didn't seem to have an answer for the ramped up play.
Amboy stole a total of 10 bases during the game and tried to make the Hawks throw the ball around the infield. It worked as Hiawatha made four errors which extended innings and forced Ross to keep the ball near the plate to avoid walking hitters on the already clogged basepaths.
The stolen bases were crucial, as it got runners into scoring position for the Clippers' hitters to bat in. Ross kept the ball down in the zone and threw a lot of offspeed pitches to keep the hitters off balance throughout.
It worked early as Ross allowed mostly bloop singles or grounders that snuck through the infield. But Amboy started to time the offspeed stuff, and pushed across the first two runs of the game in the second inning.
No. 9 hitter Delaney Wilhelm connected on an inside fastball that rolled to the left-center field wall.
"This such shows that we have to practice to get back," Ross said. "We had some anxiety at times but that's going to happen."
All was quiet in the third, before the Clippers sent 15 batters to the plate in the fourth. Nine batters reached base before the first out was made. Ross was pulled after the first five batters in favor of Presley Fisher, who trotted in from right field.
Fisher allowed six runs (three earned) in her inning of work which included six hits and a walk.
"All of our pitchers are underclassmen," Tamraz said. "It's no fault of theirs. They did the best they could. Amboy is a good hitting team."
Amboy pitcher Karlee Doege was working on a perfect game through three innings before the Hawks found ways to get on base.
Leadoff hitter Lauren Warson led off the fourth by reaching on an error, while teammate Haley Melendez recorded the only hit for the Hawks, a single with two outs in the fourth. Both were stranded as Doege struck out two and induced a soft groundout to the pitchers mound to end the inning.
"Most of these girls we will see back here next season," Tamraz said. "We hope, with another year of experience, that we can make another run."