Shannon Hohman likes her Waubonsie Valley softball teammates, but she had pitched to them quite enough.
So on Wednesday, the Warriors' junior right-hander finally got to pitch to a different team, and her first outing of the season was a resounding success.
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Hohman, who committed to Miami (Ohio) at the end of the 2013 summer season, fired a 1-hitter with 14 strikeouts and her teammates scratched out a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Burlington Central, 1-0, in the first game of a nonconference doubleheader at The Dome at The Ballpark in Rosemont.
Burlington Central used a 3-hitter from senior lefty Brooke Gaylord to come back and win the second game, 3-0, and avoid an 0-3 start for the first time since 2006.
"It's been annoying pitching batting practice all the time," said Hohman, who allowed only a fourth-inning double to her future MAC opponent, NIU recruit Bekah Harnish. "I know every team has been in the same boat but I talked to my pitching coach and said it's time to pitch in a game, I'm ready."
Hohman sure did prove that. She struck out the Rockets' first seven batters, walked only one all day and her teammates played errorless defense behind her.
"I had some jitters," Hohman said. "It's a new team, a new coach, but it feels good and I'm ready now to get outside and get into our season."
"When (Hohman's) on we'll be pretty tough to beat," said first-year Waubonsie Valley coach Valerie Wood, who won her share of games for the Warriors from 1995-98 before going on to pitch at Ohio University. "She got behind a couple girls but she battled back and didn't let the pressure get to her. I just wish our offense had come around. Our bats were kind of quiet."
The Warriors, two-timne defending Upstate Eight Valley champs, won the game in their last at-bat against BC sophomore Emily Kisch, who tossed a 3-hitter with 4 strikeouts and no walks. But for as well as Kisch pitched, her teammates' inability to catch two pop ups in the bottom of the seventh led to Waubonsie winning the game. With one out, Hohman beat out a pop up that fell between the pitcher and second baseman. Courtesy runner Veronica Zhan then went to second on Meghan Grannan's groundout, setting up a pop up by junior Jordan Kurth that could have been caught but landed beyond the Rocket infield, allowing Zhan to scoot home.
Hohman dodged the only bullet the defending Big Northern East champion Rockets could fire in the top of the fourth. Harnish laced a double to the fence in left-center and promptly stole third. But Hohman struck out the Rockets' 3-4 hitters then got a groundout to senior Mel Koulos at short to escape unscathed.
"I kind of like the pressure when runners are on base," Hohman said. "You take a different approach. You can't throw a low outside pitch she can lace over the first baseman's head. It's a different approach. You have to turn up the heat and throw harder and get your pitches moving."
"That's the kind of pitcher she is," said Wood. "She gets tougher when the pressure is on and she got stronger as the game went on."
In Game 2, the Rockets got an RBI single from senior Tori Harvey to take a 1-0 lead in the fourth, then scored three times in the fourth as Kisch (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and Gaylord each delivered RBI singles. Harnish and Cortni Neubauer each had 2 hits for BC, which got 11 hits in the game off Kurth.
Gaylord struck out 4 and walked 1, bouncing back from a rough outing against St. Charles East on Monday, as did Kisch.
"Our pitching was outstanding today," said Rockets' coach Wade Maisto. "They didn't show very well on Monday so it was nice to see them come back like this and it was nice to get some hits in the second game and play solid defensively. The first game was two pop ups that should have been caught. Emily pitched a great game and our defense played fine except for those two pop ups and they cost us."