OTTAWA — The Ottawa Lady Pirates weren't up to "speed" out on the softball diamond Thursday afternoon.
The Sterling Golden Warriors, on the other hand, were aggressors.
The Golden Warriors came out swinging the aluminum against University of Kentucky recruit Sloan Gayan and made all of the plays in the field behind their own Division-I pitcher, Jayme Eilers. Meanwhile, the Lady Pirates committed five errors to go along with several mental ones.
The result: a 7-1 win for ICA Class 3A top-ranked Sterling over Ottawa in an early Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division showdown at King Field.
"They came out and scored the run in the first. We bounced back and answered in the first. Then I felt like we went to playing on our heels; we weren't aggressive. You know, it was like we were waiting for the other shoe to drop," Lady Pirates coach Adam Lewis said.
"A team like Sterling's obviously going to hit. ... We can't give (them extra) outs every single inning and expect them not to put runs on the board. And credit Sterling: I mean, they had us on our heels putting the ball in play. That's why they're ranked first in the state."
Both teams tallied a run during the opening inning. With one out in the top of the first for Sterling (7-0 overall, 1-0 NIB 12), Genea Garza doubled to the right-center field gap off Gayan (7 IP, 7 R, 4 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 3 K). She would come in to score when Gretchen Gould's two-out, line-drive single got by the outfielder. In the bottom half for Ottawa (6-1, 2-1), Jazzy Bowman dropped a double into right-center and then scored on a Gayan two-bagger that was ripped into center field.
It was the Golden Warriors who kept hitting, though.
Cara Alexander led off the second with a single. She later crossed the plate on a two-out, run-scoring single off the bat of No. 9 batter Jordan Thormeyer. Sterling scored twice more in third, getting a two-run single by Alexander to make the score 4-1.
"We know that (Gayan is) a good pitcher," Golden Warriors coach Becki Edmondson said. "This is the third year now we've faced her. We just came out aggressive at the plate and we were looking for our pitch. We hit the ball hard, you know, put the ball in play. We did a great job offensively today.
"We scored right away, they scored right away, and we continued to score. I think we played very well. We knew coming into this that they were going to be a tough team, and we're up for that."
Sterling tacked on three additional runs over its final two at-bats, getting RBIs from Amayia Hernandez (groundout), Alexander (fielder's choice) and Emilie Powers (bunt), to make the six-run margin.
Eilers, a junior and Western Carolina University commit, went the distance in the circle to record the win. She allowed an earned run and three hits — the other to Abi Claus in the seventh inning — with three walks and nine strikeouts.
"Eilers did a really nice job today," Lewis said. "I thought we actually did have a ton of contact. We did significantly better against her this year than we did last year. We had a lot of hard contact right at people, just weren't able to string the hard contact together. ... You know, it just wasn't really our day, I guess."
Lewis hopes that the game will serve as a learning experience for his Lady Pirates.
"We're significantly better than what we showed," Lewis said. "I hope (the girls) took out of it that you just have to play aggressive like we normally play, no matter who the competition is. Good teams are going to make you play at a speed that you don't want to play at, and we were just the opposite (today). We played slower than we normally play against regular competition, let alone a team as good as Sterling.
"We get to play each other again (April 24 in Sterling), and that's what we're concentrated on is moving forward and starting a new (winning) streak."
At King Field, Ottawa
Sterling 7, Ottawa 1
STERLING (7) — A. Hernandez lf 4-0-0-1, Garza 2b 4-2-1-0, Gra. Gould ss 4-1-1-0, Gre. Gould 3b 4-1-2-0, Kessler cf 3-1-1-0, Alexander c 4-0-2-3, Powers dp 1-1-0-1, Eilers p 0-0-0-0, Corwell 1b 3-0-0-0, Dittmar ph/cr 0-1-0-0, Thormeyer rf 3-0-2-1. Totals 30-7-9-6.
OTTAWA (1) — Nink 1b 3-0-0-0, Bowman cf 3-1-1-0, Gayan p 2-0-1-1, Harris 2b 2-0-0-0, Simpson c 3-0-0-0, C. Claus lf 3-0-0-0, A. Claus 3b 3-0-1-0, Battistelli dp 3-0-0-0, Miller rf 0-0-0-0, Guerrero ss 2-0-0-0. Totals 24-1-3-1.
Sterling (7-0, 1-0) 112 001 2 — 7 9 0
Ottawa (6-1, 2-1) 100 000 0 — 1 3 5
LOB — Sterling 7, Ottawa 5. 2B — Garza, Bowman, Gayan. SAC — Powers 2, Kessler, Dittmar. SB — Thormeyer, Harris. CS — Thormeyer.
Sterling ip r er h bb k
Eilers (W, 6-0) 7 1 1 3 3 9
Ottawa ip r er h bb k
Gayan (L, 5-1) 7 7 4 9 1 3