Softball: Sterling dominates 3A regional semifinal

Golden Warriors explode for 16 runs, pitch combined no-hitter against Boylan

Sterling’s Mya Lira slides in safely at third against Boylan’s Autumn Higgins Tuesday, May 23, 2023 during a class 3A regional semifinal game in Belvidere.

BELVIDERE – Sienna Stingley set the tone in the circle, then the Sterling bats followed suit at the plate Tuesday afternoon in the Golden Warriors’ Class 3A Belvidere Regional semifinal against Boylan.

Stingley allowed just one baserunner through her three innings of work, striking out seven of the 10 batters she faced, and got plenty of run support in a 16-0, four-inning win over the Titans.

Sterling (22-11) advances to Saturday’s regional championship game, where it will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Belvidere and Belvidere North.

“The pregame talk in practice Monday, we were all saying, ‘It doesn’t matter who the other team is, we’re not going to focus on records or anything, we’re going to come and play our game.’ And we did that,” Stingley said. “It was kind of just a matter of staying and focused the whole time, playing our game.”

After a leadoff walk to Boylan’s Gabby Acuna to start the game, Stingley struck out the side in the top of the first. She worked 1-2-3 innings in the next two, with four strikeouts and two groundouts.

Ellie Leigh came on to pitch the top of the fourth, and she struck out the side to preserve the no-hitter.

“I wasn’t really working around them, that first one. I was just kind of getting used to the mound a little bit, because I didn’t really get enough pregame before,” Stingley said. “Then I kind of dialed in, got in the groove.”

Sterling’s Ellie Leigh fields a ball at third base against Boylan Tuesday, May 23, 2023 during a class 3A regional semifinal game in Belvidere.

The offense found its rhythm as well, scoring three runs in the first inning where the Warriors took a few extra bases on errors and throws around the diamond, in addition to Marley Sechrest’s RBI groundout.

The second inning was a Sterling explosion. The Warriors sent 16 batters to the plate, scored 13 runs on eight hits, three walks and two hit batters, and ended the inning when Stingley left second base early following her two-run double.

“I think everyone got comfortable. I think there were some nerves, and honestly, we didn’t get a great warm-up in because our practice net broke. So we kind of just settled in a realized [Boylan pitcher Dez Moore] didn’t have a lot of speed, she didn’t have a lot of spin, so if it’s right there, you need to wait a second and then just try to tee off on it,” right fielder Olivia Melcher said. “We were joking before the game about, ‘Let’s just get this game done early because it’s hot,’ but I did not think we were going to come out that strong. It was fun to get everybody involved.”

Katie Taylor led off the second with a single, then scored on Katie Dittmar’s double down the left-field line. Lily Martinez was hit by a pitch, then Melcher singled to right to drive in Dittmar; Martinez went to third on the play, and Melcher took an extra base on the throw.

Sterling’s Kaitlyn Taylor rounds third to score against Boylan Tuesday, May 23, 2023 during a class 3A regional semifinal game in Belvidere.

Mya Lira followed with a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Martinez, then Lauren Jacobs walked before Stingley hit an RBI single to left to score Melcher. Sechrest walked to load the bases, then Ellie Leigh drove in Jacobs on a fielder’s choice, but no out was recorded due to an error.

Taylor hit her second single of the inning to score courtesy runner Aubi Menchaca, then after a pop out, Martinez was hit by a pitch for the second time in the inning to force in courtesy runner Lily Cantu. A bases-loaded walk to Melcher plated Leigh, then Taylor scored on a wild pitch before Lira blooped a two-run single to right field to score Martinez and Melcher.

Jacobs singled, then took second on the throw to third as Boylan tried to throw out Lira going from first to third on the play. Stingley smacked a double into the gap in left-center to drive in Lira and Jacobs, then ended the inning by leaving second base early on the first pitch to the next hitter, Sechrest.

“We just had to get our weight back and wait for the pitch to come, then try to drive it. We wanted to get hits, get people on base, and drive them in,” Lira said. “I think that was really good today, everybody got a chance to have a good appearance at the plate, and I feel like that was definitely good for confidence, especially going into Saturday. I feel like that was really good, and every contributed to our offense today.”

Stingley was 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs, and Melcher was 2 for 2 with three runs and two RBIs. Taylor was 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI, and Lira scored twice and drove in three runs. Every spot in the Sterling lineup had either a hit, a run or an RBI.

Sterling’s Sienna Stingley hammers a pitch against Boylan Tuesday, May 23, 2023 during a class 3A regional semifinal game in Belvidere.
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Ty Reynolds

Ty Reynolds

Ty is the Sports Editor at Sauk Valley Media, and has covered sports in the Sauk Valley for more than two decades.