LEMONT – Sage Mardjetko kneeled in the middle of her Lemont teammates, holding a softball and cookie cake with “750 strikeouts” scribbled on both, recognizing her latest milestone.
Pretty sweet stuff.
Mardjetko added another layer to her marvelous career May 6, recording her 750th career strikeout in the fourth inning of a nonconference game with Beecher. The South Carolina recruit then added a little icing on the cake, striking out 15 in a three-hit, 3-0 shutout.
Mardjetko’s 750th strikeout came on a curveball with the batter swinging for the first out of the fourth. She quickly was mobbed by teammates on the field and spilling from the dugout to celebrate the moment. Then she went right back to work.
“It’s a nice thing to celebrate. I know my team is proud of me. Just have to keep adding to it,” Mardjetko said matter-of-factly. “It feels awesome to know my team has my back and they’re rooting for me to get to 800 now.
It’s an awesome feeling.”
Mardjetko also helped her cause at the plate, doubling in Lemont’s second run and going 2 for 3. Batterymate Frankie Rita, a Drake recruit, singled and scored Lemont’s first run in the opening inning and reached base three times.
“I just sit there and let it come to me. I try to make her look as good as possible, but she’s already looking pretty good.”— Frankie Rita, Lemont catcher
Rita has been catching Mardjetko throughout her high school career, and the talented softball player in her own right sounds just happy to be along for the ride.
“She is just kind of incredible as usual,” Rita said. “There’s really not much else to say. I just sit there and let it come to me. I try to make her look as good as possible, but she’s already looking pretty good.”
Mardjetko needed to be on her game in this matchup.
The game featured the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A in Lemont, according to the latest Illinois Softball Coaches Association poll, against the No. 2 team in Class 2A, Beecher.
Beecher (23-4) features freshman phenom Ava Lorenzatti, who already is closing in on 200 strikeouts for the season and had 14 May 6.
Mardjetko said she didn’t know Lorenzatti personally, but they play for the same travel program and she’s heard of her from people she knows.
“It raises the stakes and the pressure is a little higher. I know there’s not going to be much of a cushion,” Mardjetko said. “But these games are the best to play in.”
Lemont (17-1), when it made contact off Lorenzatti, hit her hard. Lemont provided Mardjetko all the run support she’d need in the first inning. Rita singled on the first pitch and went all the way to third when the ball was misplayed in left. Three batters later, Raegan Duncan fought off an inside pitch for a single that scored Rita.
Lemont tacked on two runs in the fourth. Avaree Taylor and Mardjetko doubled to start the inning, Mardjetko driving in Taylor. Nicole Pontrelli added an RBI double to make it 3-0.
In the circle, Mardjetko (12-0) kept motoring along. She retired the first 11 batters she faced and didn’t allow a runner to reach second.
Mardjetko, who allowed just one run over the final 71 innings of her junior year, has not allowed an earned run all season – and only three runs total. She has 171 strikeouts.
Rita continues to marvel at it all.
“Being behind the plate for her and catching everything she does is kind of incredible,” Rita said. “Watching how she works through adversity and works through her pitches, her accuracy and her speed and determination is what makes her what she is. And her competitiveness makes her even better.
“She’s almost an icon here. Small town, but she’s probably one of the people here that everybody knows.”
For all that Mardjetko has accomplished, Lemont coach Chris Traina can’t help but wonder about the numbers she could have put up with four varsity seasons.
“You think, ‘Geez, what could have happened if we hadn’t lost a year because of COVID?’ I’m just really happy for her,” Traina said. “I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over. It’s like I have a front-row seat to watching something great.”