DAVIS JUNCTION – Jayme Elers saw a tradition of hers broken, but still helped her team move on in the Class 3A Stillman Valley Regional.
After throwing perfect games each of the past two seasons in regional semifinal games, the Golden Warriors senior was two outs away from doing it again. Back-to-back singles in the seventh inning broke up that bid, but Sterling still pulled out the 3-0 win on Tuesday over Stillman Valley.
Tuesday’s win included 18 strikeouts. Grace Lagerhausen bunted back to the circle
for the second out of the first, and Jada Nanni popped up to Grace Gould at short for the second out of the fifth. All other Cardinals to come to the plate in the first six innings struck out.
Of those 18 strikeouts, 15 were swinging Ks.
“I got them to swing at a lot,” Eilers said. “The wind helped a little bit. I was feeling really confident out there, and I knew that if they were going to get some hits, my defense was behind me.”
Eilers was mixing in more curveballs than usual on a day when a steady wind blew in from left field for the entire game.
“She was hitting her spots really well. She was getting ahead in the count like she normally does,” Sterling coach Becki Edmondson said. “... With Jayme, people have seen her for 4 years. They know how she throws. We’re mixing it up a little bit more this year.”
Eilers (23-2) also struck out the first batter she saw in the seventh inning, Stillman Valley shortstop Carly Wubbena, whose bunt attempt with a two-strike count rolled foul up the third-base line. Lagerhausen came up next and ripped a single between Grace Gould and Gretchen Gould into left field for the Cardinals’ first hit of the game. Megan Rose then hit a roller up the middle that Grace Gould dove for and stopped, but could not make a throw on.
“It was the third time we’d seen her today and we managed to string a couple hits together, but unfortunately we needed a few more, and maybe a little earlier,” Stillman Valley coach Shawn Byers said.
The Cardinals (18-12) had the tying run at the plate with one out, but Eilers responded by striking out Aubry Ashlock and getting Nanni to ground out to short to end the game.
In regional semifinal games in her 4 years in high school, Eilers retired 50 consecutive batters. She recorded the final out of a five-inning win over Dixon in relief of Lexy Staples in 2016, pitched five-inning perfect games against Dixon and Rochelle in 2017 and 2018, then retired the first 19 Stillman Valley batters she faced Tuesday. She recorded a total of 46 strikeouts – and zero walks – in those games, pitching 19 innings.
As Eilers was in control, so was Stillman Valley pitcher Addison Wythe. The Cardinals freshman struck out nine and took a no-hit bid of her own into the fourth.
When Olivia Edmondson reached on an error to lead off the second inning, then went to second on a Jordan Thormeyer sacrifice bunt and stole third, Wythe got a strikeout and a groundout to strand the runner at third.
“We saw good things from our pitcher,” Byers said. “She’s a freshman. I think she got a little tired at the end of the game. We were talking about how it would be nice to have someone else as strong as she was. All in all, she had a great game today.”
Wythe (11-5) worked 1-2-3 innings in the first and third, and issued just one walk.
“She was starting to get the girls outside, so we told the girls to crowd the plate a little bit,” Becki Edmondson said. “She was doing a good job of throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count. Our girls just needed to relax.”
Sterling (25-3) eventually got to Wythe in the fifth. After Hannah Jacoby hit a one-out single to right (the first ball either team hit to the outfield all day), Rileigh Kinnison came through with a pinch-hit double to left to drive in pinch runner Yaqueline Hernandez.
“Just put the bat on the ball and hoped I did something with it,” Kinnison said. “She was really throwing outside for the most part, but then I saw a changeup and just took it.”
Sterling added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Olivia Edmondson led off the inning with a double, and pinch runner Jordan Bryant scored on a single by Thormeyer. Genea Garza later scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Amaiya Hernandez.
3A Stillman Valley Regional semifinal
Sterling 3, Stillman Valley 0
Star of the game: Jayme Eilers, Sterling, 18 Ks, 0 R, 2 H
Key performers: Rileigh Kinnison, Sterling, 1 RBI; Addison Wythe, Stillman Valley, 9 Ks; Hannah Jacoby, Sterling, 2-3
Up next: 3A Stillman Valley Regional championship, 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sterling vs. Genoa-Kingston or Freeport