STERLING – The Dixon Duchesses got on the board first and last Thursday afternoon. Sterling did all the scoring in between.
The Warriors scored in each of the first five innings, highlighted by a five-run fourth, in a 10-2 victory over the rival Duchesses. The game was originally scheduled to be played in Dixon, but was moved to Sterling because of poor field conditions.
“We’ve talked a lot about really jumping on our chances when we get them,” Sterling shortstop Karlie Mellott said. “So far this year, we’ve been scoring early then shutting things off later in the game.”
“We did the opposite today,” Mellott added, “and it’s good progress that we were still scoring in the later innings.”
Dixon (0-2, 0-2 NIB-12 West) took the early lead, as Brooke Bailey drove in Kari Wolfe with a two-out single in the top of the first.
Sterling answered quickly. Mellott singled to right and went all the way to third when it got past the right fielder, then Priscilla Aponte plated Mellott with a groundout to shortstop.
The Warriors (4-0, 2-0) took the lead with single runs in the second and third on Darien Bardoner’s sac fly and Stephanie Kester’s RBI double, then blew things open in the fourth.
Jenn Rahn led off with a solo home run to right-center, then Bardoner doubled. Cassidy Gillihan moved Bardoner to third with a groundout, then Mellott singled her home. Shannon Long plated Mellott with a two-out double, then Kester drove home Long with a base hit. Bailey Oetting’s single scored courtesy runner McKenna Pearson to close out the 16-minute frame.
“As a pitcher, you like to get early runs and get a lead,” said Kester, who struck out five and walked one in four innings to improve to 4-0. “But I’ll take them anytime I can get them, and we finally started to get on a roll that second and third time through the lineup.”
Sterling added two more runs in the fifth, both with two outs. Gillihan singled, stole second, went to third on Mellott’s bunt single and scored on a wild pitch. Mellott then scored on Aponte’s double down the third-base line. Long followed with a walk, then Aponte and Long moved to third and second on another wild pitch.
Kester, who was 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs up to that point, could’ve ended the game via the 10-run rule. But she hit a pop-up off the end of the bat to second to end the threat.
“I was so mad about that,” said Kester, who was able to smile about it afterward. “I really wanted to get the big hit and end the game, but we had a big enough lead and it wasn’t that big of a deal. I could’ve ended it a couple of innings earlier, but that’s what happens sometimes.”
Mellott and Kester had three hits each, and Kester and Aponte each drove in a pair of runs.
After limiting Sterling to single runs in the first two innings thanks to leaping grabs on line drives by second baseman Bailey and shortstop Rachel Musser, the Duchesses came up with two more nice catches in the sixth to extend the game to a full seven innings. Beccah Jones snagged a liner at third, then Kari Wolfe tracked down a deep fly to center to keep the game within nine runs.
Jade Glenn led off the seventh with a double to right-center, then went to third on a dropped third strike. She scored easily when Jessica VanOosten’s singled past a diving Mellott in the hole at shortstop. Mackenzie Barnhart then smoked a liner to center, but Gillihan tracked it down before reliever Aponte (1 ER, 3 H, 4 SO, 0 BB) closed out her second three-inning save of the season with a strikeout.
Bailey had two hits of Dixon’s seven hits, and only one of the Duchesses’ three fielding errors led to a run. Jones (0-2) gave up eight runs – seven earned – and 11 hits in four innings, and Jazzarae McGlown allowed two earned runs and four hits with a strikeout and a walk in three innings of relief.
“Our big goal today was limiting the damage when they tried to rally,” Dixon coach Chris Jones said. “I was proud of the way we did that; we only gave up the one big inning. I was pleased with the way we relaxed and settled in right away with that early run, and we played good defense against a team that can really hit the ball.
“Hopefully, this is a good game to build on, and it gives our inexperienced players some confidence going forward.”
Sterling 10, Dixon 2
Star of the game: Stephanie Kester, Sterling, winning pitcher, 4 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 5 SO, 1 BB; 3-for-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs
Key performers: Karlie Mellott, Sterling, 3-for-4, 3 runs, RBI; Priscilla Aponte, Sterling, save, 3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 4 SO, 0 BB, 2-for-2, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs; Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 2-for-3, 2B, RBI; Jessica VanOosten, Dixon, 1-for-1, RBI
Up next: Dixon at Oregon (DH), 10 a.m. Saturday; Downers Grove South at Sterling, 11 a.m. Saturday