Perfect game an imperfect ending to Metamora's super softball season
EAST PEORIA — The Metamora softball team's margin for error Monday was razor thin.
As it turned out, it was one pitch. A screwball that didn't find the right location.
Lemont pitching star Sage Mardjetko threw a perfect game, striking out 15 of the 21 batters she retired, to lead the No. 2-ranked Indians to a 1-0 win over No. 3-ranked Metamora in the Class 3A East Peoria Supersectional at EastSide Centre.
The only run of the game was a second-inning solo homer by Lemont's Raegan Duncan, whose fly ball on the errant screwball easily cleared the fence in centerfield. It was her sixth home run of the season.
Lemont (32-6) moves on to the state finals for the second straight year.
The Indians — state runners up in 2021 in their first state finals appearance in 32 years — will face either Antioch or Maple Park Kaneland in a 10 a.m. Friday state semifinal at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria.
Meanwhile, Metamora's season ended on a muggy afternoon in East Peoria.
Redbirds pitcher Sydney Trentman suffered the loss. She pitched brilliantly, going head-to-head against Mardjetko, giving up just five hits, striking out five and walking one.
Her teammates played errorless softball behind her.
"That's softball," said Metamora coach Deric Linder. "You can play a great game, and one pitch will hurt you."
The Redbirds (29-6) had no answer for Mardjetko (19-1), who threw her 17th shutout of the season. The junior right-hander has now struck out 304 batters and walked just 28 in 128.2 innings this season.
With her perfect game Monday, the South Carolina recruit lowered her ERA for the season to 0.25. She's given up just five earned runs all year.
Mardjetko struck out every Metamora batter at least once. Lemont outfielders did not need to catch one fly ball.
Lemont shortstop Allison Pawlowicz ended the game when she caught Kaidance Till's short fly ball in left field, then fell over leftfielder Nicole Pontrelli.
It was Pawlowicz's second running catch of the day.
"That girl (Mardjetko) is one of the best high school pitchers I've seen," said Linder, who has been Metamora's coach for 17 seasons.
"She can spin the ball in all four quadrants. Most high school pitchers can only do that in two quadrants. And she's got a great changeup," Linder said.
Linder said he has several good hitters on his team, and he was hoping some of them could take advantage of Mardjetko pitching mistakes. That never happened.
"I thought we could hit the ball and make them work, make them make plays." Linder said. "As it turned out, we only forced their shortstop to make plays."
Till, who came into the game with a Metamora team-high .500 batting average while playing in all 34 games, struck out in her first two plate appearances before her seventh-inning at-bat. She came away impressed with Mardjetko.
"She's a Division I pitcher," Till said. "There was a lot of movement on her pitches. And we just couldn't lay off her rise ball."
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Trentman (12-5) and her teammates never let Lemont build on its early lead.
Metamora catcher Madeline Mooney threw to second baseman Hannah Tellor to pick off Duncan at first base in the fifth inning, and Trentman slipped out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning when she got Lemont cleanup hitter Frankie Rita to hit a weak grounder to the mound.
While Monday's loss was a tough one to swallow, it still was a memorable season for Metamora, which won a sectional championship for the first time since its state championship year of 2010.
"If you would have told me when we were getting started in February that we'd win 29 games, win a share of the (Mid-Illini) conference championship and win regional and sectional championships, I would have taken that," Linder said. "I'm sorry to see our seniors go. They did a great job leading our team this year."
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.