OREGON – In some of the warmest conditions of the spring season so far, the Rock Falls Rockets finally started to heat up.
Payton Yanes struck out 18 in a one-hitter, and Taylor Hoefler’s four hits led a late-inning offensive surge as the Rockets defeated the Oregon Hawks 7-0 on Wednesday afternoon at Oregon Park West.
“It’s really nice being able to come in and play like this, because we haven’t played in a week and a half. It’s kind of nice to get back in the groove of things,” said Yanes, who issued two walks while throwing 68 of her 104 pitches for strikes.
In fact, after walking Aleah Wight to open the bottom of the first, Yanes (7-1) struck out the next eight hitters, then added five more Ks after Wight’s two-out single in the bottom of the third broke up her no-hitter.
Fifteen of the first 16 outs came via Yanes strikeouts, and Wight was the only Hawk to reach base; she was on all three times after adding a second walk in the sixth.
“We just went in and out, kept changing their perspective,” Yanes said. “The curve is really what I stuck to, and I went with the riseball as my strikeout pitch. Toward the end, they were kind of picking up the curve, so I switched over to the screw and went back inside.”
With Yanes in complete control in the circle, the Rockets offense just couldn’t pull away.
After Rock Falls stranded runners on second and third in the first inning, Miranda Hewitt hit a bloop single with one out in the second. She went to second when the throw in from the outfield got away for an error, then scored when Madison Ortiz laid down a sacrifice bunt and the throw sailed past the first baseman.
But Oregon pitcher Ellie Egyed (1-2) kept the Rockets off-balance with her changeup, and it took a while for them to time it up.
“She’s a really good pitcher, and she did a great job today,” Oregon coach Jamie Revelle said. “They don’t have a bad hitter in their lineup, which is not normal for a high school team. They’re very good again – they always are a good hitting team – and we had some errors.
“So when you have such a good hitting team and you have a pitcher that’s throwing, really, four or five outs an inning, it takes a toll. We’re just new; we’re a very young team, but I couldn’t be prouder of the game Ellie threw.”
Egyed struck out one and walked one, and limited the damage to just that one run through the first four innings.
But the third time through the lineup, Rock Falls adjusted. Payton Johnson led off the fifth with a single, then stole second. Hoefler drove her in with a base hit, then stole second and third before beating Wight’s throw to home plate to score on Yanes’ fielder’s choice grounder.
Yanes moved up to second when Wight’s throw got past the catcher, and scored on Bailee Reynolds’ long single to center. Elise Moeller reached on a fielder’s choice, then Faith Sandrock singled to load the bases – still with nobody out.
“We started out kind of slow, and it just felt like we were lagging a little bit,” said Hoefler, who had two RBIs, scored two runs and stole six bases in her 4-for-4 game. “It definitely felt like we were up by more, but they made some nice plays and stayed close.
“But I think we picked it up and started timing her pitches better, and as soon as a couple of us got hits, I think it was contagious. As soon as we got a couple of runs in [the fifth], it just felt more like we could settle down and just relax. I think that’s why we started hitting; we relaxed and let the pressure off of ourselves.”
Hewitt, who had bloop singles in each of her first two at-bats, smashed a liner this time around, but it went right to Wight at shortstop, and Wight doubled off Reynolds. But Ortiz came through with a two-out bloop single to plate Moeller, and suddenly Yanes was pitching with a 5-0 lead.
“I love having those security runs, because I just feel so much more relaxed and comfortable,” Yanes said. “It’s a lot more fun on the mound when you’re relaxed.”
The only baserunner Yanes allowed after the Rockets’ big inning was the second walk to Wight. She struck out six of the final 10 hitters she faced, and struck out the side for the fifth time in the final inning.
After batting around in the fifth, Rock Falls (7-1, 5-0 Big Northern) tacked on two more runs in the sixth. Johnson led off with another single, went to second on an error, then took third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Hoefler single. Hoefler then stole second, went to third on a passed ball, and scored on Reynolds’ double to right-center.
The Rockets got a hit or a run from eight of the nine spots in the lineup.