The last time Pleasant Plains and Hillsboro were on the same field together, the Toppers were celebrating a 5-2 victory over the visitors from Sangamon County in the Litchfield Sectional semifinal.
But that was May 23, 2019 and a lot has changed in both rosters since then. Unfortunately for Hillsboro, Plains’ ace, Kylie Nation, wasn’t one of those changes.
The Toppers touched up the then-sophomore for five runs in the sectional semi two years ago, but two years later Nation was flawless on the Toppers’ home field, leading Plains to a 15-0 win in four innings.
The senior pitcher struck out nine Toppers in the game, setting down the side in the first and third innings. Summer Smith’s foul pop up to third base was the first Topper not retired on strikes and only one ball made it to the outfield all game, a fly ball to right by Meagan Jorn that was bobbled by the Plains right fielder for an error.
That two out faux pas was the only blemish on Nation’s otherwise perfect stat line as she struck out the final batter of the game to collect the win.
While Nation’s return to the mound was a welcome sight for the Cardinals, Hillsboro’s line-up was littered with new faces who may need some time to adjust to the high school game.
Only three players on the roster have varsity experience, led by senior Haley Major, who did everything but pitch and run the concession stand in her sophomore year. The Kaskaskia College recruit batted .472 with nine home runs, 33 RBIs and 56 runs scored from the leadoff spot in 2019 and was a key part of the Toppers’ success.
The only other players to see varsity action the last time Hillsboro played are Meagan Jorn, who played in 14 games as a freshman and started in left on Monday, and Erin Moore, who played in ten games as a sophomore in 2019 and started at second.
The other senior on the roster, Ally Devore, started in right field for the Toppers, with junior Maddie White starting as the designated player. Aliyah Trader is the only other junior listed on the 13-player roster.
The rest of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores who will be getting their first taste of varsity action.
Taelyn Smith, one of four sophomores along with Kenadie Carlock, Summer Smith and Aurelie Granito, got the start on the mound for Hillsboro Monday against the hard-hitting Cardinals. She allowed 16 hits in four innings, striking out two and walking two, with Hillsboro also committing four errors.
Summer Smith also started, playing first, while Carlock started at third. The pair made a nice play on a ground ball in the second inning to end a scoring streak by the Cardinals.
Freshmen Sophia Blankenship and Alyson Mullen also made their debuts, with Blankenship playing center and Mullen catching for the Toppers. Aubrey Evans is the third freshman on the team and rounds out the HHS roster.
With five straight winning seasons and 100 wins during that span, it’s been a while since the Toppers have had a rebuilding year. Just how far they’ll go in 2021 depends on just how fast they can learn, which will be the case for many clubs in the area.
April 19 at Hillsboro
Pleasant Plains 554 1 15 16 1
Hillsboro 000 0 0 0 4
Plains IP R ER H K BB
W-Nation 4 0 0 0 9 0
Hillsboro IP R ER H K BB
L-T. Smith 4 15 11 16 2 2
Multiple Hits: Pleasant Plains - Ryan 3-4, Meyer 3-4, Nestler 3-4, Smith 2-3, Ruot 2-3, Nation 2-3. 2B: Pleasant Plains - Ryan 2, Meyer 1, Boltz 1, Smith 1, Ruot 1.
Record: Hillsboro (0-1).