HUBBARD - It was very evident early in Wednesday's Division II softball sectional semifinal between Niles and Hubbard that the game was not going to come down to the pitchers, but to the hitters.
And when a game is a battle of the bats, then there also is the factor of the defenses - and which makes fewer mistakes.
The winner of that battle at Harding Park was the Eagles. Hubbard racked up 10 hits and committed only one error, compared to Niles' eight hits and three errors leading the Eagles to a 5-2 victory.
"I told our pitcher (Melyssa Conger) make them hit the ball," Hubbard coach Ken Miller said. "Hit your spots, keep it in the infield and we will be fine."
Those words of advice proved to be right on the mark, after the first inning.
Niles didn't waste any time getting the bats going, putting up four singles to start the game. The Dragons also opened the scoring that inning when Brooke Lawson drove in Megan Morris to take an early 1-0 lead.
The Eagles answered in their half of the first. Samantha Dudley led off the inning with a slap bunt single and later scored on a Niles fielding error.
The major damage was done by the Eagles in the third inning. Hubbard came into the inning trailing 2-1, after Niles' Brea Brazzon scored on a wild pitch in the top half of the third.
Hubbard's Julia Clemente started the rally getting on base via a Niles error, then advanced to second on a Taylor Barton single. Amy Thomas was next to the plate and drove in Clemente on a double to right field. Another Niles error brought in Barton and Thomas scored on an Anna Pedicini hard-hit double to right center.
Hubbard added another run in the sixth for the final score.
"All year, we've been stringing hits together like that, but only in one inning," Miller said. "The rest of the game though, who knows?"
Unfortunately for the Dragons, those "one inning" mishaps have plagued them for most of the season. Wednesday was no different.
"It seems like we always have that one bad inning," Niles coach Ugo Scarnecchia said. "The inexperience with the younger players shows, but it's a good learning experience for them as well.
"I was excited in the first inning, but sometimes momentum changes. But we are a young team, and they'll come around."
Leading the young Dragons' squad was pitcher Hope Callen with two hits, including a double. On the mound, she finished the day without a strikeout or walk, but allowing 10 hits.
Also adding two hits for Niles, which finishes its season at 6-21, was Sam Melius with two singles.
The Eagles, who improve to 9-17, were paced by Dudley, Barton and Pedicini, all with two hits each. Getting the win on the mound was Conger, who struck out one in the victory.
Hubbard advances to face Canfield in a Division II sectional final at 4:30 today in Canfield.