Softball: Kaneland's bats go quiet in sectional loss
Sterling managed just 3 hits against Kaneland ace Emilee Erickson on Tuesday in the Class 3A Genoa-Kingston sectional semifinals. Two were harmless singles, but the third was a killer.
With two on and one out in the third inning, Gretchen Gould drove a pitch from Erickson over the left-field fence to put the Golden Warriors ahead for good.
That was more than enough offense for Sterling starter Jayme Eilers, who allowed just 3 singles and walked no one while striking out 11 and the Warriors made that early lead stand up for a 3-0 win.
"I was trying to keep that ball low, and I did not do a good job of that, so she got ahold of it," Erickson said of the pitch to Gould.
Rose Roach struck 2 of the Knights' 3 hits and in a way accounted for the third when she was hit in the base path by a sharp 1-hopper off the bat of Donatella Sommesi in the sixth inning.
That was as close as the Knights came to a rally against Eilers, who allowed just two other baserunners all day.
Kaneland (30-7) reached the Class 3A title game last year but fell short of a return trip to Peoria this time around. Sterling will play the Sycamore-Crystal Lake South winner for the sectional title.
"We had a slow start today," said Kaneland coach Mike Kueffler. "You can't give that team over there the opportunity we did. We did put the ball in play. We hit the ball hard today, we just seemed to find someone behind it every time we hit it hard. Just a slow start and we weren't able to catch back up."
Eilers got plenty of help from her defense, particularly a couple of nice catches in deep center field by Amaiya Hernandez.
After falling to Kaneland in the regular season, the Warriors (25-3) made some adjustments both offensively and defensively this time around.
"We showed a lot of discipline at the plate," said Sterling coach Becki Edmondson. "We played them earlier this year and their pitcher kept us off-balance. She was throwing outside a lot and we were swinging at a lot of balls outside. Today we made her bring it to us.
"We had a little bit different approach and decided to use that changeup a little bit more today. She established that right away."
Erickson had some control issues early but they didn't come back to bite her. She walked two in the first inning but escaped trouble by striking out the side. She hit Hernandez with two outs in the second but struck out Meghan Sechrest to end the inning.
But after striking out Riley Dittmar to open the third, she walked two batters. Gould worked the count full and fouled off a couple pitches before launching one to deep left.