Pitcher perfect (again) as Huntley's Heard throws another no-hitter in win over Grant
Huntley senior Jori Heard has found an almost perfect solution to guarantee a win.
Don't let the other team get any hits.
The Red Raiders ace and NCAA Division I Valparaiso commit was at it again Wednesday against Grant, fanning 18 in 7 innings, throwing her second perfect game of the postseason and running her hitless streak to an impressive 25⅔ innings.
Heard, who has tossed two perfect games in her last four starts, and the top-seeded Raiders beat No. 3 Grant 3-0 in a Class 4A Huntley Sectional semifinal and will now play for their third consecutive sectional championship.
Huntley (31-6), the undefeated Fox Valley Conference champion, will meet Mid-Suburban League champ Barrington (31-5) for the sixth straight postseason at 10 a.m. Saturday. The winner advances to Monday's Barrington Supersectional.
The Raiders defeated the Fillies in a supersectional a year ago on a walk-off home run in the 11th inning and have won the past two postseason meetings after Barrington won the first three.
Heard, who surpassed 400 strikeouts in Wednesday's win, is excited to see the Fillies again.
"I think we'll have a lot of people here, it will be loud, and it will be a lot of fun," said Heard, who is 26-6 and has allowed only 10 earned runs with 412 strikeouts and 18 walks in 192⅔ innings.
Raiders coach Mark Petryniec isn't sure he has seen a pitcher go on quite a run as Heard, who has been overpowering in the postseason.
"As a coach, you just sit there in awe and you admire it," Petryniec said. "She's been phenomenal. She's hitting her spots, she's changing speeds, and I wouldn't want to game plan against her."
Huntley got all 3 of its runs in the top of the first inning after consecutive hits by Katie Mitchell, Clara Hudgens and Heard. Heard's single to center field knocked in Mitchell, and that was followed by RBI groundouts from Reese Hunkins and Zoe Doherty.
Heard needed only 10 pitches to strike out the side in the first inning and struck out the first 12 batters before Grant's Hailie Feltner connected on a solid grounder to first baseman Meghan Ryan.
Grant's Sofia DeAngelis flew out to right field to start the bottom of the sixth and the next batter, Brianne Lopez, hit a comebacker to Heard, who struck out the final batter in the sixth and all three in the seventh.
Bulldogs coach Chris Van Alstine thought his team had a better approach after one time through the order.
"(Our approach) was to work quick and not take huge long swings, just working quick and short to the barrel," Van Alstine said. "I thought our No. 4 hitter (Feltner) really made it look doable. Her first at-bat, she smoked a couple in their dugout off their coaches. When we get short and quick on a girl like her, you don't have to overpower her. You let her do all the work. It just took us awhile."
Junior pitcher Shelby Wasilewski was tough for the Bulldogs (19-13-1) and allowed only three base runners after the first inning. She did not get any strikeouts or issue any walks, and Huntley didn't have much hard contact against her, finishing with five hits.
"Her back was tremendously sore, and we didn't know how long she was going to go," Van Alstine said of Wasilewski. "She ended up getting stronger as the game went on, and that's just who she is."