Softball: Antioch freshman Schuler mows down Grayslake North
Antioch freshman Jacey Schuler wasn't fazed by the big-game moment.
With her team vying for the Northern Lake County Conference softball title, Schuler showed her age is not a factor in Tuesday's pivotal showdown at Grayslake North.
Schuler struck out 14 batters and allowed just 1 hit in a thrilling 1-0 win over the Knights. Schuler (20-3) kept the Sequoits in contention for the conference crown with Grayslake North and Wauconda with a stellar outing. She allowed a fifth-inning double to Morgan Nielsen but closed out the threat with a strikeout and catching Nielsen attempting to steal third on the same play.
Schuler admitted she had some extra incentive in the road conference match, helping Antioch (27-5, 10-2) defeat the Knights (18-5, 9-2) for the second time this season.
"I was working on my spin and hitting my spots because that was most important today," Schuler said. "I knew this game was really important for conference champion. I had to bring it. All my pitches were working well today and I hit my spots. This is definitely one of my best performances."
Schuler outdueled Grayslake North junior ace Gianna Certa by relying on her four pitches. As the game lingered, Schuler gained strength rather than losing speed on her fastball on the windy afternoon.
"She has really good spin and really does well in tough situations like this," Antioch catcher Hailey Webb said of Schuler. "She was hyped and everything was clicking today."
Antioch coach Anthony Rocco, who notched his 254th career victory, said Schuler had one of her best outings of the year.
"She was possessed it seems, and she came on strong in the second game against them," Rocco said. "She was throwing heat. The wind blowing in was a factor for us because we're more built for small ball. The wind blowing in added one or two miles per hour, maybe to 65 miles per hour. She was bringing it."
Antioch sophomore Eden Echevarria ended the scoreless drought with a line-drive single to left field in the top of the seventh to score pinch-runner Grace Green. Schuler struck out the side in the bottom half to seal the win. Echevarria finished 2-for-4 at the plate, with her RBI single helping extend Antioch's winning streak to 11 games.
"I was just trying to hit the ball square and hard and definitely out of the infield," Echevarria said. "I wanted to get the rally started and score some runs. This win means a lot. I've been in a couple of high-pressure situations, but my teammates were cheering me on and that made me more confident."
Certa (14-2) gave up 3 hits in the decisive seventh inning, but she relished the opportunity to pitch against the Sequoits and Schuler.
"They are a good team with a lot of good batters, but I went out there with confidence and with my catcher," Certa said. "I just tried to battle every pitch and it was a great game. It was a great pitcher's duel and we both battled. My riseball and changeup were working."
The Knights could potentially play the Sequoits a third time in a Class 3A sectional semifinal game on June 8.
"My pitcher was amazing, but they just outhit us," Grayslake North coach Amanda Rodriguez said. "We learned a lot today and what we need to fix and do better if see them in sectionals.