STERLING – The ball was flying off of Sterling bats and avoiding Rochelle bats entirely in the 3A Sterling Regional semifinal on Wednesday.
The Golden Warriors pounded out three home runs and a triple as Jayme Eilers pitched a perfect game in a 15-0 four-inning win over the Hubs.
Three Hubs batters were able to put the ball in play. Britney Salinas lined out to Grace Gould at short to lead off the first, Faith Roush grounded out to Genea Garza at second to lead off the second, and Teddi Hacaga popped out to Cara Alexander in foul territory to end the fourth.
Eilers struck out the other nine Rochelle batters who came to the plate.
“I threw mostly screwballs and riseballs, and I got them to swing on a lot,” she said.
With her nine strikeouts, Eilers brings her career total to 532, breaking the program record set by Lexy Staples at 526.
“Obviously she was getting ahead in the count,” Sterling coach Becki Edmondson said. “She was going right after the hitters and being aggressive. Obviously we got a perfect game out of her, so what else can you ask for?”
It was also the second year in a row Eilers threw a perfect game in the regional semifinal, having done so in a win over Dixon in the same round last year. Just like in that game, she was able to work with plenty of run support from her hitters.
“I love when we score in the first inning, or every inning,” she said. “Knowing that we had that many runs, it was comfortable. If they did get on base or score a run, we weren’t in trouble.”
Sterling (28-2) opened the game with four straight hits. After bunt singles by Hannah Kessler and Garza to lead off the first inning, Jordan Thormeyer blasted a three-run home run to left.
“I just saw it coming right down the middle and I saw it clearly,” Thormeyer said. “I was looking for a base hit.”
Thormeyer added a two-run shot in the second inning.
“I think we all did our jobs and we were hitting the ball pretty hard,” she said. “We got on when we needed to.”
Kessler drove in Olivia Edmondson with an RBI single in the second, and Sterling’s offense kept going in the third and fourth.
Meghan Sechrest came up as a pinch hitter in the third with two out and a runner on and blasted a two-run home run off the scoreboard in center.
“I’ve had a pretty good season,” she said. “It’s pretty nerve-wracking, but I have a lot of confidence in this year. I was just looking to see the ball and hit the ball, make some solid contact. It was right there, my pitch. I went for it because I knew with what we saw, there weren’t going to be a lot of strikes.”
Rochelle (5-21) pulled starter Bella Lodico after Sechrest’s homer, going to Roush in relief. She got Kessler to ground out to end the third, but ran into trouble finding the strike zone in the fourth.
Riley Dittmar pinch hit for Garza to lead off the fourth and grounded out, but a series of walks by Roush loaded the bases. Thormeyer scored on a wild pitch, and Alexander singled to drive in Gretchen Gould and Grace Gould. Maddie Corwell was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and another walk forced in a run and brought Dittmar back up to the plate for a second time in the inning. She tripled to left, driving in three runs and invoking the run rule to end the game.
“That’s such a morale booster, it kind of sets that tone when you can come in and you have batters that you can pull off the bench that can come through with hard hits,” Becki Edmondson said. “We have some depth now that we have our full roster, hard-hitting girls. Even if it’s not always a base hit, it’s hit hard.”
3A Sterling Regional semifinal
Sterling 15, Rochelle 0, 4 inn.
Star of the game: Jayme Eilers, Sterling, perfect game, 9 SO
Key performers: Jordan Thormeyer, Sterling, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs; Meghan Sechrest, Sterling, 1 HR, 2 RBIs; Hannah Kessler, Sterling, 2-3, 2 RBIs
Up next: 3A Sterling Regional championship, Sterling vs. Genoa-Kingston—Stillman Valley winner, 11 a.m. Saturday