YORKVILLE – Madi Reeves did not deviate from her routine against a different opponent, in her biggest start at Yorkville to date.
After every pitch, regardless of the situation, Yorkville’s sophomore pitcher takes a slow walk behind the circle, gathers her thoughts and gets back at it.
“I feel like if I’m down in the count I can go back there and I’ll just take a breather, think about all my mechanics,” Reeves said, “and what I need to do on the next pitch.”
Reeves was just about pitch perfect Thursday.
On a sizzling afternoon with the mercury near 90 degrees, Reeves cooled off a hot-hitting Neuqua Valley lineup. She took a perfect game into the seventh inning, and struck out 13 batters in a one-hit shutout. Kaitlyn Roberts and Ellie Alvarez had run-scoring hits in a three-run fifth inning, and top-seeded Yorkville went on to a 4-0 win in the Class 4A sectional final – the first sectional championship in program history.
Yorkville coach Jory Regnier is just about out of superlatives in talking about Reeves (20-3), who is now up to 329 strikeouts in her first high school season.
Fittingly, Yorkville (24-4) unfurled its first sectional banner and posed for pictures in the middle of the circle that Reeves has been dominant in all spring.
“Madi was phenomenal today, just phenomenal,” Regnier said. “This is her first postseason, she plays in some big-time pressure tournaments for travel but there is no pressure like a one-and-done and she did a great job of having that mentality of what she wants to do with every batter.”
Reeves seems to thrive in the pressure-cooker of the postseason, with shutouts in three of Yorkville’s four playoff games.
With the word “Dominate” written in white on her left glove arm, she did just that Thursday. Reeves struck out the side in the second, third and sixth innings. She struck out eight batters in a row between the second and fourth innings, a soft liner to Alvarez at shortstop to end the fourth the first putout by a Foxes’ player other than Reeves. Yorkville left fielder Sam Davidowski made a running snow cone catch of a ball hit by Neuqua’s Maia Clifford to start the fifth.
Neuqua’s Ella Kooi, finally, broke up the perfect game with one out in the seventh, reaching on a bunt single and Izzy Ernest walked before a line out double play ended it.
“Madi came out and made a statement,” Alvarez said.
Indeed, Neuqua (24-4), DuPage Valley Conference champions also going for its first sectional title, came in with a lineup averaging just under seven runs per game, hitting .312 as a team with 28 homers in 27 games.
But the Wildcats struggled to handle Reeves’ velocity, with the occasional changeup mixed in.
“No, we haven’t seen that kind of speed, not to that extent,” Neuqua coach Christina Chrencik said. “She normally pitches low to mid 60s and we really haven’t seen that kind of speed. We knew it was coming.”
Neuqua’s Hannah Meeks, who struck out five, was Reeves’ match for three innings, before Yorkville broke through in the fourth with help from the Wildcats’ defense.
Avery Nehring reached on a dropped throw, and Kayla Tranter beat out a bunt that was bobbled. A wild pitch moved runners up, and courtesy runner Ally Stancel scored on another wild pitch.
“Especially in the postseason, errors are just unforgivable,” Chrencik said. “I always tell our girls if the bats are quiet the defense has to be air-tight. When you have both working against you, it’s not a good recipe.”
The Foxes’ bats started to cook in the fifth, breaking things open with three runs.
Davidowski served an opposite-field single to right, and Taylor Warren squirted a single up the middle. Mackenzie Melzer reached on a bunt to load the bases, Roberts singled in a run and Alvarez drilled a double to right-center to score two, making it 4-0.
“I hadn’t seen their pitcher before, I knew she had a lot of spin so I stood up in the box so her pitches wouldn’t break enough and I think that gave me an advantage,” said Alvarez, who had two hits. “I knew what my job is, I needed to score those runs and I did my job.”
Reeves did the rest.
The girl her coaches kiddingly call a “freshman” continued a dazzling sophomore year, and moved Yorkville a win away from state.
The Foxes will play the winner of Friday’s sectional final between Minooka and Belleville East in a supersectional at 4:30 p.m. Monday in Normal.
“It feels good. Everybody calls me a freshman, because we didn’t have our last season,” Reeves said with a smile. “It’s nice to say that I’m a ‘freshman’ coming out here like this. I knew we had it in us, I knew we were capable of it. We had to just come out and do it.”
I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.