VERGENNES — Lexi Renner tossed a two-hitter and hit a two-run homer to lead fourth seed Steeleville to a 3-0 win over top seed Elverado in the Class 1A Regional title game Saturday afternoon.
“That was a great showing,” said Steeleville coach Andy Gerlach. “Lexi threw the ball very well and then hit the two-run homer that really pushed us over the edge. Getting over that inning and then throwing the last strikeout really felt good for this team. Our first two weeks of the season were not very good, but our last two weeks we were playing good ball and we really looked good today.”
Steeleville (14-7) advances to the Sectional 8 semifinals to play third seed Marissa, which beat Woodlawn, 5-3, to win the Regional B title. The game will be played at Marissa Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Elverado came into the game averaging 11.8 runs a game with a .487 batting average. The Lady Falcons beat Bluford (Webber), 11-1, Friday night in the semifinals and ended their season with a 21-4 record.
“It was Renner’s day on the mound and at the plate,” said Elverado coach Jacob Emling. “Their record didn’t mean anything with the competition they play. We actually didn’t think it was going to be 3-0, but probably an 8-7 game with how powerful both offenses are, but it turned into a pitcher’s duel. We just fell a little bit short today.”
Renner (13-6) retired the last 15 batters. The senior right-hander struck out five and walked none giving up just two base runners, a leadoff single in the second and a leadoff single in the third.
“My defense did really good today, so I have to give them a big props,” Renner said. “There are days where my off-speed pitch is not working, so I was really glad it was working today and hopefully for the rest of the season. My big thing was to hold Mo (Bernardini), their leadoff hitter, off the bases. Luckily we did that and the rest of the lineup I just attacked.”
The Lady Warriors got all the runs Renner would need on the first seven pitches of the game. Kadence Bockhorn beat out a nubber to short on a 1-1 pitch by Morgan Bernardini. On a 2-0 pitch to Kaylee Darnell, Bockhorn stole second and when the throw from the catcher hit her in back she ended up at third base.
After Darnell had fouled off the next pitch attempting to bunt, the sophomore second baseman laid down a perfect bunt as Bockhorn broke toward the plate leaving the only fielding option being to first base as Bockhorn crossed the plate with the game-winning run.
Renner followed with a double down the left field line, but courtesy runner Gillian Valleroy was stranded there as Bernardini struck out the next batter and got the third out on a pop fly to short.
Renner set down the side in order in the first. After giving up a leadoff single to Chloe Barnes, Renner needed just four more pitches to get the next three outs on a strikeout and a sacrifice bunt was turned into a double play as Barnes was thrown trying to advance to third.
Reese Funk led off the third with a line drive through the box, but Renner stranded her at first on a strike out, a pop to short and a pop fly to second.
Renner needed just 38 more pitches to set down the next 12 batters, striking out the leadoff batter in the fourth on a called third strike and doing the same on the last batter of the game. She needed just four pitches to retire the side in the fifth.
Bernardini (10-4) pitched around a leadoff single by Olivia Raby and hitting Jenna Hood in the third and a one-out walk followed by a single by Shea Conway in the fourth.
In the fifth Bockhorn led off with another infield hit on a slow roller to second. On the first pitch to Darnell, Bockhorn was thrown out trying to steal second. Three pitches later Bernardini walked Darnell to bring Renner to the plate.
“I got a little greedy trying to steal second on the first pitch — usually I don’t steal on the first pitch — but Kaylee was trying for a bunt and hopefully she was going to put it play so we could move her even to third,” Gerlach said. “That was the whole idea going first to third on that.”
Renner fell behind 0-2 in the count before taking an outside pitch and then smashing Bernardini’s next offering over the left field fence for her eighth home run of the season and up the lead to 3-0.
“That was the highlight of the game in my opinion,” Renner said. “I knew it had a chance, but I also knew that this field is really far in the outfield, so I was still booking it to get as far as I could before I knew it was over. That was my favorite part.”
Bockhorn led the nine-hit Steeleville attack with three hits in four at-bats with a run scored. Renner finished 2-of-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. The cleanup batter Hannah Myers also had two hits in four at-bats.