1A softball: Jessalin Johns strikes out 14, pitches Newman past Putnam County in regional final

Johns gets out of bases-loaded jam in the seventh to preserve 4-1 win

The Newman softball team poses with their regional plaque after beating Putnam  County in the Class 1A Putnam County Regional final.

GRANVILLE – Jessalin Johns struck out 14 and got out of bases-loaded jams in the second and seventh innings, and Newman – despite being outhit – beat Putnam County 4-1 in Saturday’s Class 1A Putnam County Regional final.

Putnam County, which outhit Newman 10-8, loaded the bases with none out in the seventh, but Johns shut the door as the Lady Comets advanced to Tuesday’s sectional semifinal at Williamsfield against West Central.

“I was feeling like I just wanted to get balls in the strike zone, just get the balls across the plate and have the girls back me up like they did,” Johns said. “I just tried to keep it cool in my brain, especially in that stressful situation.”

Johns struck out the first five batters she faced. After Putnam County loaded the bases in the second inning, Johns got out of the jam with her sixth strikeout.

“I feel very happy (with the strikeouts) and confident in her ability,” Newman coach Madison Koerner said. “She handles herself well in the circle and it’s great to have her going into the postseason throwing how she is.”

Meanwhile, Newman scored three of its four runs in the bottom of the first, setting the tone early in the game.

Newman’s Madison Duhon doubled, and Lucy Oetting singled to right field to score Duhon with the first run of the game.

After an error allowed Amiya Rodriguez to get on base, Brenleigh Cook hit a pop fly to left field for the second out, allowing Oetting to tag up and score from third for a 2-0 Newman lead. Putnam County senior pitcher Paxton Stunkel and her defense got the last two outs of the inning, but not before Rodriguez scored the Lady Comets’ third run.

Newman tacked on a fourth run in the bottom of the fourth, Sophia Ely driving in Addison Foster.

When Johns, a Sauk Valley Community College commit, wasn’t recording strikeouts, her defense helped her out. Johns took a shutout into the sixth inning, when Putnam County’s Valeria Villagomez hit a line drive out to the center field fence giving Maggie Richetta the chance to score.

Putnam County’s Valeria Villagomez led her team with three hits, including two doubles, with one RBI. Stunkel, who threw every single pitch for the Panthers this season, along with shortstop Gabby Doyle, Maggie Richetta, Sarah Johnson and Salina Breckenridge all recorded hits for Putnam County, which graduates six of its nine starters.

“I asked all of the girls to fight every single time and every time we were up to bat we had a lot of runners on, we just couldn’t develop anything and that’s all I asked them to do,” Putnam County coach Adrianna Zeman said. “I thought we did great with that.”

Duhon led Newman with three hits, and Foster had two doubles. Rodriguez, Oetting and Sam Ackman also had hits for the Lady Comets.