By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
FULTON, Ill. — One day after throwing a no-hitter, Erie/Prophetstown pitcher Kylie Ackerman said she would much rather play in the type of game the Panthers had Thursday against Fulton than a blowout.
Ackerman scattered six hits, walked none and struck out nine Steamers on Thursday in a 7-2 victory at Drives Park.
“Last night felt really good, but these games that put the pressure on you, that’s what makes you better,” said Ackerman, who didn’t allow a hit against Hall on Wednesday in a 10-0, five-inning win. “Actually, I enjoy these games a lot more because they make you work harder.”
The game could have been much closer — four of the Panthers’ runs were unearned — or not, since both Fulton runs were unearned, too.
“We didn’t play very well; we’re a better team than that,” Panthers Coach Bob Phelps said. “But, we’ve got one group (Erie) coming off spring break and one group (Prophetstown) going on spring break, so they’re a little flat.”
The Steamers gave Ackerman only moments to think about another no-hitter. A few minutes after that she was facing a 2-0 deficit.
“I think we earned their respect because they thought when we came out that they were just going to roll all over us,” Fulton second baseman Faith Kennedy said. “But then we showed them who we really are.”
Whitney Wynkoop hit a one-out single in the bottom of the first inning for Fulton. Maddy Andresen followed with a grounder to short, but Panthers second baseman Addison Morse couldn’t handle the throw from shortstop Clare Kramer, and the error put runners on second and third. One out later, Kennedy delivered a two-run single to center field.
“Just to get in runners,” Kennedy said of her approach at the plate.
“They came out swinging, got good hits and found our holes,” Ackerman said. “That’s what got them those two runs.”
Erie/Prophetstown got one run back in the top of the second on Alicia Stout’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly to left field. Wynkoop pitched out of further trouble, though, getting Delaney Tegeler way out in front of a changeup for the second out, then striking out leadoff batter Stephanie Thulen looking.
“She pitched really great,” Fulton Coach Jessie Rosenow said. “She did her job tonight. That was a huge changeup. She was feeling it. She’s definitely a game player. She thrives on the intensity of the game. That’s what you want as a coach.”
After that, seemingly harmless errors turned into upset-killers for the Steamers.
“In the situations that we made mistakes, the moment got too intense,” Rosenow said. “We tell them to enjoy the moment.”
The Panthers enjoyed those moments a little more.
A dropped throw on Kramer’s grounder to shortstop started the Panthers three-run third inning with an error. A single to left by Savannah Mettler and a bunt single by Ackerman loaded the bases.
Wynkoop nearly pitched out of trouble again, getting a forceout at the plate and a flyout to shallow center field. It appeared she would escape again when Morse hit a grounder to shortstop, but courtesy runner Kennah Meier was ruled safe on the throw to third, allowing Mettler to score the tying run, and Stout and Tegeler followed with walks that forced in runs.
“Once our bats came, a lot of our confidence came back, too,” Ackerman said. “It’s good to get those hits, get a couple of runs and all of a sudden our fielders are fielding at their top game again. Having a good defense is definitely great, and a good catcher, too.”
The Panthers added an unearned run in each of the fourth and sixth innings when runners who reached on two-out errors scored. They added a final run in the seventh on a passed ball that followed a one-out triple by Thulen.
With Ackerman in the circle, that was plenty of support.
Even though they lost, the Steamers went away feeling they had served notice that they’re a team opponents can’t overlook.
“We told them, ‘That’s a great 3A team that went to the regional finals last year, and we competed,’ “ Rosenow said. “That’s what we want is to compete and get better. Now we have our measurement; now we can push forward.”
ERIE/PROPHETSTOWN 7, FULTON 2
Erie/P’town 013 101 1 — 7 9 2
Fulton 200 000 0 — 2 6 3
Kylie Ackerman (7 ip, 6 h, 2 r, 0 er, 0 bb, 9 so) and Ashley Davis; Whitney Wynkoop (7 ip, 9 h, 7 r, 3 er, 4 bb, 3 so, 1 hbp) and Maddy Andresen. Multiple hits — Erie/Prophetstown (Clare Kramer 2, Emily Cox 2); Fulton (Chelsea Lesniewski 2). 2B — Erie/Prophetstown (Kramer); Fulton (Andresen, Lesniewski). 3B — Erie/Prophetstown (Stephanie Thulen). RBIs — Erie/Prophetstown (Addison Morse 2, Alicia Stout 2, Delaney Tegeler); Fulton (Faith Kennedy 2).