By Brenden West
Assistant Sports Editor
GOOSE LAKE —
With bases loaded and nobody out, Northeast (finally) had its best chance of the evening to score on Davenport Assumption's Jamie Miller in the final frame.
Up to that point, Miller was as efficient as she's been all season. Her no-hit bid ended in the sixth when Tierra Hildebrandt lined a double over the center fielder's glove. Combining this game with Wednesday night in Camanche, Miller was on her ninth consecutive shutout inning. She even helped her cause with a solo homer to lead off the fourth inning.
"When Miller's on, she's on," Knights coach Bob Matthys said. "If you can hold the other team to zero, then you're in the ballgame. We hang our hat on defense. We're going to stay away from that big inning."
But then, Miller faltered when she led off the seventh with two straight walks. Morgan McAleer reached first after Ruthie Neff bobbled the catch to load the bases.
Miller followed by striking out two of the last three Rebels batters, eliminating Northeast 2-0 in the Class 3A Region 5 softball semifinal. It was a game that featured countless clutch defensive plays that kept both teams involved until the very last out.
"What we build off of is our defense," Miller said moments after sewing up a complete game, two-hit, seven-strikeout gem. "When we put our defense together it all just comes together. A lot of people underestimate us because of our record, but it's just a number."
Assumption moves on to Monday's final in Wilton to face Mid-Prairie of Wellman.
"I thought we had some great at-bats in that last inning," Northeast coach Travis Eversmeyer said. "We made (Miller) throw strikes, got on with some walks. Tonight we just didn't get that one hit we needed."
Throughout the season the Rebels could be heard chanting "championship" in team huddles. Their goal was to win the Big East Conference.
Although they came up short, Eversmeyer said his players deserved praise for their 24-win season.
"When you take it to the last out of a regional semifinal game and have a chance to win it at the end, we're not going to sit here and dwell on one loss," he said. "It doesn't take away what they've accomplished over the last three years."
After two scoreless innings, Assumption threatened in the third when Hannah Guy and Maddy Matthys reached scoring position. But Guy was stonewalled at home on a tagout by Baylie Parson. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Northeast first baseman Brittany Stoll made a snag on a screamer up the line to end the inning without a score.
Northeast's batters continued to struggle behind Miller's dominance. The Rebels didn't receive their first base runner until Kelsey Carder walked with two outs in the fourth. Even then, no runners threatened until Hildebrandt's leadoff double in the sixth.
Miller's homer put Assumption up 1-0 in the fourth, which wound up the difference maker. In the top of the seventh, Kaitlyn Andresen added an insurance run with a base hit to score Neff from third. The Rebels avoided catastrophe, though, with pitcher Maddison Daniels getting out of her second bases-loaded jam of the game, aided by a Hildebrandt to Parson home force out.
It was the final Rebels game for seniors McAleer, Stoll, Emily Franks, Daniels and Shelby Bormann. An emotional Stoll said she always would carry with her the great bond she had with teammates.
"I'm just really proud of how hard we worked," she said. "We really had a great bond, so it's going to be really tough leaving it behind.
"I was just happy that we got people on base and gave ourselves a chance. It's sad that we couldn't pull through, but it was awesome how close it was."
Eversmeyer credits the seniors for Northeast's great run over the past three seasons, highlighted by last season's Big East Conference championship.
"They've been part of 72 wins in three years, something to be very very proud of. They fought until the last out, and I'm proud of that," he said.
DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION 2, NORTHEAST 0
Assumption 000 100 1 — 2 7 1
Northeast 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Jamie Miller (7 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 3 bb, 7 so) and Clair Bird; Maddison Daniels (7 ip, 7 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 2 so) and Baylie Parson. Multiple hits — Assumption (Jamie Miller 2). 2B — Assumption (Maddy Matthys), Northeast (Tierra Hildebrandt). HR — Assumption (Miller). RBIs — Assumption (Miller, Kaitlyn Andresen).