STERLING – There was one thing that Kylie Ackerman wanted to make perfectly clear after Thursday's game against Newman.
"It didn't hurt," Ackerman said.
The sophomore pitcher wasn't referring to the game in which her Panthers won 13-1 in six innings.
Instead, she was talking about the reason she had the beginnings of a good mummy costume in the form a of a strip of medical gauze wrapped around her forehead.
Ackerman (14-0), who held the Comets' bats to three hits, had a quick end to her day in the bottom of the sixth inning when Mady Ferris drilled a liner back toward the circle.
The ball smacked off the side of Ackerman's head and bounced off her glove. She dropped to the ground as Ferris reached first.
Within moments, blood was running down the side of her face, as teammates and coaches converged on the circle.
She gave them the same, "It didn't hurt," sentiment immediatel, but left the game to have the gash treated in the dugout.
"When you're a pitcher you know that at some point you're going to have one like that," Ackerman said. "It's not a big deal, and I'll be ready to get back out there next time."
Panthers coach Bob Phelps thought the gash might need stitches, although the tough sophomore didn't seem interested in a trip to the hospital.
Savannah Mettler came in to finish the game. After a wild pitch moved Ferris to second, groundouts by Julie Hurd and Jenna Stevens plated the lone run for the Comets (9-8, 3-5 Three Rivers North).
"We had a few innings where we started out with a hit, and then we would just strand them," Newman coach J.D. Waldschmidt said. "We're a young team, and we played like it today. Too many mistakes in the field, and they made us pay for it."
The Panthers (17-2, 6-0) led 2-0 heading into the fifth inning, as Newman freshman pitcher Lakyn Waldschmidt (6-3) had kept them guessing at the plate but EP stared guessing right in the fifth.
Laykin Miner opened the inning with a single. After a strikeout by Kaeli Kovarik, Stephanie Thulen lined a hit to left field. The ball got past Rachel Grennan and rolled all the way to the fence, allowing both Miner and Thulen to score.
A throwing error on the next play not only allowed Mettler to reach, but also move to second. She advanced another 60 feet on a wild pitch, before scoring on a ground out by Emily Cox.
Ackerman closed the scoring in the inning with a long home run to left field.
"She came inside on me, and that's the first time that I have ever hit an inside pitch out like that," Ackerman said.
"She had worked the ball inside and out pretty well the first time through the order, and we weren't able to do much against her. The second time through, we had it figured out."
Three straight hits to open the sixth chased Waldschmidt. Only two runs resulted from those hits, as Alicia Stout was thrown out at the plate after an infield single by Addison Morse.
Samantha Miller came in and a combination of poor defense and walks led to five more runs.
"We've been a team that hits the ball like that all season," Phelps said. "You can't pitch around anyone, because the next girl can hit, too. They are a nice little club, but they made a few mistakes that opened the door for a couple big innings."
"That's the best offensive team in the conference," J.D. Waldschmidt said. "I thought Lakyn pitched well, but there were too many errors, and then she got frustrated. It's disappointing, because we know we can compete better than that."
Star of the game: Kylie Ackerman, Erie-Prophetstown, winning pitcher, 5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 9 SO, 0 BB, also hit HR
Key performers: Stephanie Thulen, Erie-Prophetstown, HR, 3 RBIs; Mady Ferris, Newman, single, run
Up next: Rockridge at Erie-Prophestown, Hall at Newman, both 4:30 p.m. today