Preston pitching ace Kelcie Bormann admitted she couldn’t remember if she had had a 20-strikeout performance during her high school years.
“I remember when I was younger I had, but this is probably in high school … the most I got,” she said.
Whether it is a personal record or she still had a few K’s to go, Bormann was on her game during Wednesday’s Iowa Class 1A regional final victory against Janesville.
Of the 25 Wildcats batters the Preston senior faced, 20 went down via the strikeout, most of them whiffed by her riseball or changeup. It was Bormann’s masterful performance that stamped a 2-0 win over upset-minded Janesville and a second-straight state tournament for the fourth-ranked Trojans.
Preston (29-6) will look to improve upon its seventh-place finish at state a year ago. The Trojans face fifth-ranked Treynor (29-3), a 2-0 winner over Hinton in the Region 8 final, at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Harlan Rodgers Park in Fort Dodge.
Rarely was Bormann behind in the count, and only once did she need to battle back from a 3-0 count to record a strikeout.
“Everything worked tonight, and it was just on,” said Bormann, who improved to 26-4 on the season. “I used my riseball a lot and my fastball. And my changeup worked really well tonight.”
But for Bormann’s great performance, the last strikeout couldn’t have come at a better time.
Janesville’s Jenny Monaghan had led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a double, and after Bormann recorded back-to-back strikeouts, she gave up a full-count walk to Tori Killian. With Wildcats senior Talere Sorge at the plate, Bormann uncorked a rare wild pitch to move the runners into scoring position, just what Sorge — who had a .337 batting average and 23 RBIs on the season — wanted. But after fouling off at least two pitches beyond a 2-2 count, Bormann finally got Sorge to swing at strike three for the game-ending out.
We knew coming into the bottom of the seventh inning that was the meat of their order,” Trojans coach Sarah Manning said. “That girl (Monaghan) had two doubles, and we knew there were two solid hitters, and Kelcie had them all day. She struck them out.”
Bormann added: “They had the meat of their lineup up, so the girl that led off (Monaghan) that hit on me last time … I tried to keep it outside, but she still got on anyway. We got the first two out and then I got into a full count a couple times, it’s just hard knowing you can get another runner on or strike her out. But I had more confidence that I was going to get a strike.”
Preston scored the only two runs of the game in the top of the first inning. Bormann smashed a solo shot over the left-field fence to open the game. Emily Rittmer used a two-out single to score Lizzie Meier to give the Trojans an insurance run.
“I just wanted to get a hit and got on,” Rittmer said. “It feels great (to get the hit and to win).”
Janesville showed it was prepared to battle in the bottom of the first. Leadoff batter Erika Quistorff fouled off nine straight pitches from Bormann and coaxed a ball before finally reaching when the ball was dropped at first base.
“We knew she was going to be a tough out. We just had to field it and get rid of it,” Manning said.
But after that, Bormann focused, and struck out 15 the next 16 batters she faced. Monaghan’s one-out double in the fourth was the only blemish in that streak.
The Wildcats had only five baserunners all evening. Quistorff reached twice, her second time coming after another error at first base in the sixth inning. She took off for second on a Bormann strikeout pitch, and Trojans catcher Megan Zeimet threw to shortstop Lizzie Meier, who tagged Quistorff out to end the inning.
“It was a really big deal,” Zeimet said of her assist. “She was a good hitter and really fast, and it just got us out of that inning.”
Janesville coach Shelly Sorensen was impressed by Bormann’s pitching performance.
“That’s one of the best we’ve faced all year,” said Sorensen, whose team ended with a 31-8 record. “She got the job done tonight. This group has been known to fight to the end, but we couldn’t come up with the hit when we needed it. She’s a tough pitcher and had us on our toes all night long.
“It’s too bad it comes down to that first inning. We had to score anyway, but it comes down to we couldn’t put together enough in any of those innings,” she added.
Preston had baserunners on in every inning but was able to score only in the first.
“Well, our odds have been with us,” Manning said. “We’ve been visitor all four games, and we got our two runs in the first inning, but it’s worked out for us. We’re still getting those runs the first innings, and it’s worked out well for us.
“It’s a great accomplishment. (Qualifying for state) two years in a row (is) a big honor, and they’ve worked hard enough to earn it.”
Zeimet said: “It feels great. Last year that was the year we were going to go, but this year it was like, ‘We’ve got to work harder’ because those two seniors (Korissa Daniels and Alicia Lane) are gone.”
PRESTON 2, JANESVILLE 0
Preston 200 000 0 — 2 9 2
Janesville 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Kelcie Bormann and Megan Zeimet. Shelby Murley and Jenny Monaghan. Multiple hits — Preston (Lizzie Meier 2); Janesville (Monaghan). 2B — Janesville (Monaghan 2). HR — Preston (Bormann). RBIs — Preston (Bormann, Emily Rittmer).