ROCK FALLS – The Rockets beat the rain to get a critical conference game in, but couldn't do the same to the Stillman Valley Cardinals. Rock Falls lost 3-0.
It was a pitching duel between Payton Abbott for the Cardinals (13-0, 5-0 BNC) and Michaela Ward for the Rockets (12-3, 5-1). Both started out dominant, as both pitchers had six strikeouts through three innings.
"We didn't play aggressively," Rock Falls coach Kris Nunez said. "We didn't get into the box and act like we knew what we were doing with our bats, and that's how we warmed up. We didn't make defensive plays. Michaela pitched a heck of a game. I have heard coach after coach talk about their [Stillman's] monster bats, but Michaela held them at bay."
In the top of the fifth, Stillman's Lexi Morrison hit a foul ball left of third base that could have been caught. Instead it was dropped, and on the next pitch, Morrison knocked a hit to the fence in right. Hustling, Morrison stretched it into a triple. She scored on a suicide squeeze by Courtney Fernette.
"Once we saw her [Ward] once, we all adjusted to her rise ball," Morrison said. "I knew we needed to get some runs in, and the avoidance slide was just habit."
Rocket center fielder Paige Reynolds was active and made three catches. Second baseman Destinee Schumaker ranged back just in time to make an over-the-shoulder catch.
Kellie Ehman hit a low liner to left field to start the seventh, and it grazed off the glove of Taylor Anderson and fell to the wet grass.
Ehman ended up on second. Then Ali Green stepped to the plate and made sure she got in by knocking a line drive over the right-field fence to give her team a 3-0 lead.
"This was our lowest offensive output all year, but you have to figure that it would be," Cardinal coach Shawn Byers said. "Michaela is a very good pitcher, and has a very good team behind her. We have a pretty solid team, and have been hitting the ball all year."
The Rockets had one hit and three baserunners. They also committed three errors. Abbott finished with 12 strikeouts, and Ward finished with six strikeouts and allowed two earned runs.
"It was all about momentum, heart, and will," Nunez said. "Today, we had none of the three. It's rainy, chilly, and mopey, but the blame should be placed on our will and desire to win the game."
Stillman Valley 3, Rock Falls 0
Star of the Game: Payton Abbott, Stillman Valley, 7 IP, 12 K, 2 BB, 0 R.
Key Performers: Michaela Ward, Rock Falls, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB. Ali Green, Stillman Valley, 2-R HR, 2 RBI.
Up Next – WInnebago at Rock Falls, 4:30 p.m.