Clay Lavercombe wasn’t surprised by the nifty one-hitter Shawnee High School ace Emily McKillip slapped on his struggling Tippecanoe squad.
Her game-winning, RBI triple, though, added insult to injury.
“She’s just tough. Real tough,” the first-year Red Devils coach said, shaking his head in dismay following a 3-0 Central Buckeye Conference road loss to the Braves.
“Her strong suit is getting hitters to swing at bad pitches. It’s a shame she’s not going to be playing anywhere (in college).”
McKillip, who’s likely headed to Wright State but doesn’t plan to play softball, leads the CBC in strikeouts with 163 and added eight more Tuesday while walking one.
“Emily threw a great game,” said Shawnee coach Chris Roberts, whose club cleared a hurdle by sweeping the Red Devils to remain tied with Kenton Ridge for the Kenton Trail Division lead.
“Emily didn’t even allow a runner past second base. Throwing a one-hitter — that’s great. You want to see that out of your senior ace (this late in the year).”
Equally hard-throwing Tippecanoe hurler Brianna Eichbaum (132 strikeouts) matched McKillip nearly pitch for pitch, holding Shawnee (21-2 overall and 12-2 CBC) to three hits and a pair of earned runs while striking out nine and walking three.
“They’re 1-2 in the league in strikeouts,” said Lavercombe, whose Red Devils dipped to 12-10 and 8-5. “They both did a super job. I think that was the best two-sided pitching performance I’ve seen all year.”
McKillip’s first-frame blast to deep right-center field scored Lauren Linn, who’d walked. McKillip motored home one play later to make it 2-0 on an RBI fielder’s choice ground out from Aliya Saunders.
“Oh wow! I didn’t even know I had a one-hitter,” McKillip said in the celebratory aftermath. “Today my screwball was working really well. I was keeping them jammed up on the inside.”
The Braves added their final run in the fifth when pinch hitter Kristin Dalton and leadoff batter Morgan Loveless singled.
Dalton scored courtesy of a fielder’s choice ground out from Linn and an errant throw to third base from Tippecanoe first baseman Stephanie Kraska.
“It’s definitely a relief to get both of these (back-to-back) wins against Tipp,” said Loveless, a senior centerfielder. “We still have Bellefontaine and Greenon to play and they’re very important games for us.”
Should Shawnee and Kenton Ridge both win out, as expected, the squads will share the CBC Kenton Trail title with two losses each.
For the Braves, a piece of the CBC crown would make history, marking their first softball championship in 37 years. The Braves’ last won CBC in 1977 — when Jimmy Carter was president.
“It feels really good knowing you worked your whole high school career to achieve that (league) goal,” Loveless said. “Having it be this close — it’s surreal.”