OTTAWA — With the postseason on the horizon, the Ottawa Lady Pirates are returning to form.
Wednesday afternoon, the Lady Pirates strung together a few hits during the fourth inning, leading to all three of their runs. From the pitcher's circle, University of Kentucky signee Sloan Gayan was "locked in" and backed with errorless defense.
An energetic effort by ICA Class 3A third-rated Ottawa resulted in a 3-0 win over the Geneseo Lady Leafs in its Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division finale on senior day at King Field.
"I think we came out strong — definitely — you know, playing our (senior-day) game. So I felt like everybody was behind me, and we had a good game," said Gayan, who spun the 17th shutout of her prep career while in the process establishing a new OHS single-season record for strikeouts (she currently has 272, passing Shaleigh Jansen's old standard of 268 in 2008).
"Everything was a little bit better production-wise today (than our initial matchup, a Geneseo win)."
"I think (that first game) was just learning a lesson. We just had no energy," Lady Pirates coach Adam Lewis said of his ballclub. "Today, the energy was good. It was a fun game all the way through, from start to finish. And I think that's about just getting back to doing what we do."
Jenna Nink ignited the Ottawa (21-6 overall, 8-4 NIB 12) offense in the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff single, a rip down the first-base line. Molly Harris then doubled home Nink with a rope to left-center field. Gayan (2-for-3) followed with a hit dropped into right that she turned into a hustle double. Zoe Harris then plated her sister, Molly, with a sac fly. Cassie Claus concluded the scoring with a flare into right field, bringing in Gayan.
"We've had much more consistent contact as of late," Lewis said, "and it was good to see it continue today."
"We had three plays that would have, could have, should have been made (during that fourth inning), and cost us," said coach Pat Mitchell of his Lady Leafs (19-10, 6-5). "We can't have that one inning, because that one inning beats you."
The way Gayan (7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K) dealt, the trio of runs was more than enough.
"Sloan was on her game," Mitchell said. "Her dropball was working very well early. I mean, she's good; we know."
"(Sloan) was locked in today, for sure," Lewis said. "Her ball was moving a ton. And, I mean, it didn't matter what pitch we called, it was where it was supposed to go. It just had a ton of movement on it. She definitely had it going today.
"One big reason why Geneseo's as good as they are year in and year out is because they hit the ball, and they hit the ball hard. So to be able to shut them out and keep them off-balance (at the plate) for a full seven innings is definitely a good thing."
Prior to the contest, Ottawa's five 12th-graders — Claus (three-year starting outfielder), Gayan (four-year ace), Molly Harris (four-year starting middle infielder), Zoe Miller (three-year starting outfielder) and Josie Mooney (first-year varsity player) — were recognized.
"They came in and kind of changed the culture within the program," Lewis said in reference to Claus, Gayan, Harris and Miller — a quartet that's been a part of 69 wins over the last three seasons. "Josie's been an unbelievable addition to the team.
"These five seniors, they're just incredible individuals."
The Lady Pirates, who travel to defending 4A state champion Rock Island on Thursday before hosting Rock Falls and nationally-ranked Chicago Marist on Saturday, hope to maintain their momentum with regional play beginning next week.
"We're definitely trending in the right direction," Lewis said.
At King Field, Ottawa
Ottawa 3, Geneseo 0
GENESEO (0) — Bieneman ss 2-0-0-0, Hartman 2b 3-0-0-0, Mitchell p 2-0-0-0, Thomas 3b 3-0-1-0, McAvoy c 3-0-0-0, Buysse rf 3-0-1-0, Spindel 1b 3-0-0-0, Baumgardner dp 2-0-0-0, Himmelman cf 0-0-0-0, Varland lf 2-0-2-0. Totals 23-0-4-0.
OTTAWA (3) — Nink 1b 3-1-1-0, M. Harris ss 3-1-1-1, Gayan p 3-1-2-0, Z. Harris c 2-0-0-1, C. Claus lf 3-0-1-1, Turk cf 2-0-0-0, A. Claus 3b 2-0-0-0, Carlson dp 1-0-0-0, Mooney 2b 1-0-0-0, Miller rf 2-0-0-0. Totals 22-3-5-3.
Geneseo (19-10, 6-5) 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Ottawa (21-6, 8-4) 000 300 x — 3 5 0
LOB — Geneseo 4, Ottawa 2. 2B — M. Harris, Gayan. SAC — Bieneman. SF — Z. Harris. CS — Varland.
Geneseo ip r er h bb k
Mitchell (L, 3-3) 6 3 3 5 0 2
Ottawa ip r er h bb k
Gayan (W, 18-6) 7 0 0 4 1 11