PERU - La Salle-Peru veteran softball coach Randy Huebbe knows he’s got something special on his ballclub with a pair of sophomore pitching aces capable of shutting down the best of opponents.
Sophomore standout hurlers Chloe Mitchell and Evin Becker did just that Saturday afternoon.
Both stood tall in the circle as L-P captured a 3-2 (nine innings) and 1-0 doubleheader, walk-off sweep of a rock-solid Normal Community squad Saturday afternoon at an intensely windy and dusty Veterans Park here in Peru as both contests ended in rather unusual fashion with the Cavaliers at bat.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort by all the girls.”— L-P softball coach Randy Huebbe
Mitchell (3-0) went the distance in the opener, while Becker (2-0) took the complete game matinee, each throwing dominant outings as they outdueled Iron senior Kiersten Manning and junior Leigha Luering, respectively, to help keep L-P perfect so far on the young campaign at 6-0. NCHS slid to 8-5.
The Cavs also righted the ship after a bad start defensively and turned in multiple impressive web gems off the hands of seniors Lauren Phillips and Kaitlyn Gibson along with a couple from sophomore Taylor Martyn that helped back up the incredible pitching performances of Mitchell and Becker.
“Both of our sophomore pitchers combined to throw 16 innings with no earned runs, and I couldn’t be happier with that,” Huebbe said. “Chloe (Mitchell) was just a machine out there today, and every pitch Evin (Becker) threw was gold. It’s going to get better with them as the year goes on, and after a bad beginning defensively I’m really quite happy in getting a sweep of a very tough team from Normal Community.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort by all the girls.”
L-P 3, Normal Community 2 (9 inn.)
In the opener, the Cavs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first off Manning (8+ IP, 3 R, 6 H, 3 BB, 15 K), as Gibson singled with two out, stole second and scored on an RBI single to right by junior Maddy Pangrcic (2-for-4).
Three L-P errors followed on infield popups in the wild winds, which led to a pair of unearned runs for the Iron that gave them a 2-1 lead after four frames.
L-P would tie things up at two apiece in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Alex Michael led off with a duck-snort safety behind third base before stealing second and scoring on a pair of wild pitches.
Then with two gone in the bottom of the ninth and the bases loaded, Manning nailed Martyn with a first-pitch heater that actually broke the bill of Martyn’s helmet in half, scoring Becker who singled earlier to give L-P and Mitchell (9 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K) her third victory of the year after she retired the last 17 of 18 Iron batters she faced on her amazing day.
“I just went out there and gave it my all, and so far this season its worked out pretty well,” Mitchell said. “My coaches and my team behind me are so great, and today was another example of that.”
L-P 1, Normal Community 0
Becker and Luering duked it out pitch-for-pitch, with Luering (6+ IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 K) taking the tough-luck loss, while Becker (7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K) was amazing in the circle allowing only three balls to leave the infield.
Once again, the tipping point came in walk off style for the Cavs. With two out in the bottom of the seventh, Michael reached after a base on balls and went to second on Becker’s single to center.
Then, with senior Lauren Klein at the plate and a 1-2 count, Michael was on the move stealing third. The NCHS catcher’s throw to try to send the game into even more extra innings sailed down the line in left, which allowed Michael to trot home for the double-dip sweep and gave Becker her second triumph in the circle after following up Mitchell with another scintillating sophomore performance.
“It’s so simple to go out there and pitch when I’ve got such a great team behind me like I have,” Becker said. “I’m super-confident every time I pitch, because I know this great group totally has my back, which makes it easy for me.”
L-P will next take on archrival Ottawa (8-1) in a crucial Interstate Eight Conference contest Monday evening scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch at King Field.