VERGENNES — Megan Bernardini’s solo home run in the fifth inning was massive, but not Elverado’s only shining moment in Thursday’s 12-2 victory against Goreville.
The Lady Falcons (4-0) smacked 11 hits through six innings with Bernardini leading the way with four hits and one walk to short game the reigning state champion Lady Blackcats (1-1).
When Bernardini, a junior commit to Mississippi State University, wasn’t doing damage at the dish, Emma Yates (1-0) was keeping Goreville’s bats at bay with six strikeouts from the pitching circle.
“In Southern Illinois, Goreville is the team to beat,” Bernardini said. “It wasn’t a great game in sectionals my freshman year, but we came in with a purpose and we played with a purpose and we had a job and we got it done.”
Bernardini was referring to Goreville shutting Elverado out 14-0 in the 2019 Sectional round.
History looked like it might repeat itself after Goreville led 2-0 in the second inning, but a blend of Lady Blackcat errors (4) and Elverado’s offense amounted to five runs in the fourth inning for the Lady Falcons. Reese Funk highlighted the firestorm with a two-run triple that scored Emma and Ellie Yates to give Elverado an 8-2 lead going into the fifth.
That’s where Bernardini stepped in. With one out and a 2-2 count, the junior scanned her bat to find the sweet spot before digging in for Reese Ray’s 93rd pitch. The future Bulldog read fastball, and smoked fastball over the head of Kyleigh Massey in center field to put Jacob Etling’s team ahead 9-2.
“The goal was to come out and play well,” said the Falcons coach. “Our pitching was excellent and I thought our at-bats were great. (Emma) has thrown well; she’s coming off elbow surgery just before the winter and this is the first time she’s been able to throw that much.
“As for Morgan, she’s one of the best when it comes to the mental side of the game. She’s been in a little bit of a slump by her standards, but she stayed tough and finally got one out today.”
Bernardini was 4-for-4 with two singles, a double and a home run going into her final at-bat. Not really thinking about the triple she needed for the cycle, Bernardini worked Ray to a 3-0 count and even took a strike before walking on five pitches.
Bernardini finished a home run shy of the cycle in last Monday’s 13-1 win against Dongola. Yates also pitched in a limited appearance, but didn’t log enough innings to earn the win. But when Bernardini was asked about the awareness of being one hit shy of the cycle, her response was simply made along with acknowledging her pitcher.
“Emma was great today,” Bernardini said. “She had her movement on, she had her offspeed on and hit her spots. It allows me to look for base hits because base hits win ball games. I don’t go up to the plate looking for home runs; they’re a good thing, but I just try to do what’s best for the team.”
Bernardini scored three runs, one of which was the game-sealing run in the sixth inning when Chloe Barnes brought her home on an RBI single. Barnes’ hit capped off a three-run sixth inning for Elverado to get the run cushion it needed to avoid the seventh.
Goreville finished with three hits while Kyndall Webb finished 1-for-2 at the plate with one double and one RBI. Ray took the loss on 128 pitches, six strikeouts and three walks.
The Lady Blackcats are scheduled for a conference road game against Trico on Monday.
Elverado looks to remain perfect against Weber on Monday and Odin on Tuesday.
“I know Weber has a good pitcher,” Etling said. “We’ll be challenged there, but hopefully our pitching can keep them at bay and it’ll probably come down to defense again.