ROCK FALLS – Sterling coach Becki Edmondson was glad that the storms that swept through the Sauk Valley on Tuesday afternoon were out of the way in time for Warriors' regional semifinal against Dixon.
See, the top-seed at the 3A Rock Falls Regional is a creature of habit. The last thing Edmondson wanted to see was a disruption to the routine.
Instead, the game started as scheduled, and so did the Warriors' bats in a 13-0, five inning win over the Duchesses.
Sterling advances to Saturday's championship game at 1 p.m., when they will meet the winner of today's game between Rock Falls and Mendota.
"The thing that I was most happy about is how comfortable we were today at the plate," Edmondson said. "With it being the regional, and with the weather being goofy, we didn't want to be nervous."
Edmondson even reminded the team of the importance of being ahead early, noting last week's regional game between Morrison and Erie-Prophetstown that was stopped in the sixth inning because of lightning. Morrison was ahead, and later declared the winner by the IHSA, who said the teams could not continue playing the next day.
Emily McDonald seemed to find a routine of her own against the Duchesses. The junior outfielder clubbed home runs to left field to lead off both the second and third innings against Dixon's Beccah Jones. She popped out in her third at bat off reliever Erin Smith.
"I was just seeing the ball really well," said McDonald, who was wearing contacts that colored her eyes red. "It made it hard not to get too excited during that third time up."
Karlie Mellott also got in the home run mode, blasting a two-run shot in the third inning.
Dixon (8-24) had a promising start against Sterling's freshman hurler Lexy Staples.
After Smith grounded out, Daytona Geesey ripped a double that bounced to the center-field fence. Geesey was stranded there after a strikeout and groundout.
"I thought we made some good contact at times," Dixon coach Chris Jones said. "Not as much as they did, but we still had some good swings."
Dixon had one other hit in the game, a single by Ally Jacobson in the fifth off of reliever Cheyenne Harrington. Ally Cullen did crush a ball over the left-field fence, but it veered foul by a few feet.
Staples went four innings, allowing one hit with six strikeouts and one walk. She did that by throwing only 56 pitches.
"We've been trying to keep Lexy's pitch count down the last few weeks," Edmondson said. "She did a nice job today of throwing strikes and getting ahead in counts."
Sterling scored three runs in the bottom of the first, thanks in part to two throwing errors. Lauren Fritz had an RBI single, and Shannon Long drove in a run on a groundout.
McDonald's homer to start the second sparked a six-run inning.
Darien Bardoner, Gabby Sandoval and Erin Stroup followed with singles. After a popout to short by Nadia Trujillo, Mellott drilled a double to center to score two runs. After another popout, Shannon Long tripled to drive in three runs, and then scored after a throw trying to get her at third sailed high and out of play.
Sterling scored four more runs in the third inning, including Mellott's two-run blast. The Cornell-bound shortstop finished the day 3-for-3 with a double, a home run, four RBIs and three runs scored.
"We had everybody hitting today," McDonald said. "I think when that happens, everyone starts to relax and have more fun."
Beccah Jones pitched three innings, allowing 13 runs (10 earned) with no strikeouts and two walks. Smith held the Warriors scoreless in the fourth.
"I put this loss on me," Chris Jones said. "We debated about who should start, and who should come in to relieve. We went with Beccah, and we hoped to get her through the lineup twice. But, they started timing her quickly, and I should have got her out of there quicker.
"That's my fault, and there's not much more to say than hopefully we can come back next year stronger."
Star of the game: Karlie Mellott, Sterling, 3-for-3, 2B, HR, 3 runs, 4 RBIs
Key performers: Daytona Geesey, Dixon, 2B, walk; Emily McDonald, Sterling, 2 home runs, 2 RBIs
Up next: 3A Rock Falls Regional championship, Sterling vs. Rock Falls or Mendota, 1 p.m. SaturdayB