ROCK FALLS – As a freshman, Morrison pitcher Brooke Stralow isn't all that comfortable yet doing postgame interviews.
If she keeps pitching like she did Wednesday against Rock Falls, she better get used to it.
Stralow struck out the first eight batters she faced, and twirled a perfect game into the sixth inning to lead the Fillies to a 2-0 nonconference win over the Rockets.
"She was not only hitting her spots, but her pitches were spinning great," senior catcher Chelsea Eads said. "She got the job done with whatever pitch she was throwing today."
Stralow finished with 14 strikeouts and one walk in six one-hit innings. The only free pass she allowed was right after Destinee Schumaker's bloop single broke up the perfect game with one out in the sixth.
"I kind of knew I had a perfect game going," Stralow said, "but I wasn't really thinking about it. Everything was working for me today, and my defense was great behind me when I made a mistake."
Those mistakes were few and far between. All told, she never threw more than six balls in a single inning, and finished with 60 strikes in 79 pitches.
"She hit spots, she threw hard, and she was in control," Rock Falls coach Kris Nunez said. "Usually in someone so young, you don't always find that control, but she had it today. That's the first pitcher we've seen with that kind of velocity this season, and it showed … especially early on."
With a reduced reaction time with the speed of Stralow's pitches, it took a while for the Rockets (11-2-1) to sync their timing. After the first two hitters struck out looking, the next six swung through strike three, before Jenny Lawson's comebacker to end the third broke up the strikeout streak.
Still, even the second time through the order, Stralow (3-0) had Rock Falls' number. She struck out five of the next seven hitters after the comebacker, then walked Lawson after Schumaker's single in the sixth. But she got a pop out and her 14th strikeout to end that lone threat, then fellow freshman Lauren Rice worked a one-hit seventh for her second save of the season.
"We knew it was going to be a close game against Rock Falls' tough pitcher," Eads said, "so we came in here really focused today. Our defense was sharp, we got some girls on base early in the game, and we got the job done."
It was actually Eads who provided all the offense her pitcher needed. Her two-out single in the first plated Shannon Finneran, who had led off the game with a full-count walk, then she added an RBI on a perfectly placed bases-loaded blooper to left field to drive in Rachel Davis with one out in the third.
But that was the last hit Rock Falls pitcher Michaela Ward allowed. The junior kept her team in the game, bearing down after the second run. She got two popouts to keep the third-inning damage to a minimum, then allowed just five baserunners the rest of the way, on two walks, a hit batter, an error and a fielder's choice.
"After they scored, I knew I couldn't give up anything else," Ward said. "I started throwing a little harder and locating my pitches better, really focused on getting outs however I could."
Ward (10-1) finished with a three-hitter, allowing one earned run while striking out five, walking three and hitting two batters. She threw 80 of her 114 pitches for strikes, and all game fought through foul ball after foul ball from the pesky Fillies (14-1).
"They got some really beastly bats, and Michaela kept the beast at bay," Nunez said. "We had a couple of errors that hurt us, but I told the girls after the game that if we had played two or three more innings, with the way we were starting to make contact at the plate, we might have been able to bring this game back to us."
Morrison 2, Rock Falls 0
Star of the game: Brooke Stralow, Morrison, 6 shutout innings, allowed 1 hit, 14 Ks
Key performers: Michaela Ward, RF, 3-hitter, 5 Ks, allowed 1 earned run, 3 walks, 2 hit batters; Chelsea Eads, Morrison, 2 hits, 2 RBIs
Up next: Rock Falls at Rockford Lutheran & Alleman at Morrison, both 4:30 p.m. today