Olivia Percefull picked a great time to hit her first home run for the Pekin softball team.
The junior catcher blasted a no-doubter over the fence in centerfield with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday. The three-run walk-off homer gave the Dragons a 6-3 win over Canton in a Mid-Illini Conference game.
Ahead of the Canton pitcher Blair Jacobus with a 2-0 count, Percefull was given some wise advice by Pekin coach Skip Penning.
“I told Olivia to take her best cut if it’s a good pitch,” Penning said. “Don’t get cheated.”
“That ball was out the second it went off Olivia’s bat,” Penning said. “The pitcher made a mistake, and Olivia made her pay for it.”
Percefull said the pitch was straight and right down the middle.
“I knew I hit the ball well, but I was surprised it went out,” she said. “I thought the centerfielder would catch it.”
There was no chance of that. Percefull saw the ball sail over the fence, rounded the bases and was greeted by her happy teammates at home plate.
It was a particularly dramatic home run because it gave Pekin (1-2, 1-0) its first win of the season and a victory in its conference opener against a team ranked No. 3 in the Peoria Journal Star large-school power rankings. Pekin is No. 8.
Down 3-2 to Canton heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Dragons scored four runs to win.
Noelle Bowling’s RBI double to right-center and an intentional walk to Molly Flannigan preceded Percefull’s blast. The second-year starting catcher was the No. 7 batter in Pekin’s lineup.
The Dragons had a runner thrown out at third base earlier in the inning with the score still 3-2. They weren’t happy about the call, but it became the turning point of the inning.
“That call got us pumped up and we played with a chip on our shoulder the rest of the way,” Penning said. “We hit the ball well in the seventh. We didn’t have any weak hits. They were all shots.”
Percefull agreed with her coach about the ramifications of the call.
“We said, ‘We’ve still got this,’” she said.
Missed opportunities to score and defensive mistakes plagued Pekin earlier in the game.
“But we fought through that adversity,” Penning said.
Winning pitcher Lexi Juergens went the distance. She allowed seven hits, fanned four and didn’t walk anyone. Canton scored once in the second and twice in the third to move in front 3-1.
The Dragons backed Juergens with a dozen hits. Bowling had three hits and Percefull, Kristen Hunt and Flannigan each had two. Hunt and Flannigan each had an RBI.
Pekin’s scheduled Mid-Illini opener Tuesday at Dunlap was postponed by bad weather and will be played May 7. It isn’t known if the Dragons’ non-conference doubleheaders against Bloomington (March 17) and Brimfield (March 24) will be made up.
The Dragons have played all their games at home this season.
NEXT: Streator at Pekin (2), 11 a.m. Saturday (non-conference).
Steve Stein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.