WHEATFIELD | One pitch proved to be the difference in Andrean’s 1-0 victory over host Kankakee Valley on Friday in the championship game of the Class 3A sectional.
Senior Kaitlin Barajas blasted a solo homer in the first inning, lifting the Niners (24-4) to the title
And one dropped third strike was the only thing that kept senior Nikki Steinbach from a perfect game, as she tossed a no-hitter to give the Niners their sixth straight sectional crown and 10th in school history.
“Two great pitchers going head-to-head, so I knew it was going to come down to defense and hitting,” Andrean coach Brooke Baker-Runyon said. “With one swing of the bat that’s what made the difference in the game, Barajas’ home run.”
Barajas jumped on a first ball fastball from Ashley Dobson in the top of the first inning and blasted a home run to deep left field for the game’s only run.
“I went up there a lot more confident than I have been -- ready to hit the ball,” said Barajas, who homered for the seventh time this season. “She doesn’t usually give a good first pitch, but I always like hitting the first pitch.”
Steinbach, a Ball State recruit, did the rest with the only blemish being a dropped-third strike that allowed Ashley Stahl to reach first base with one out. Steinbach went on to retire the next 20 batters in order and finished with nine strikeouts.
“I was just focused on doing what I know I can do,” she said. “Basically, not trying to overpower as much as more of trying to hit my spots more than I was yesterday.”
Andrean advances to play in the regional Tuesday against host Griffith.
Barajas likes making the moments memorable.
“They’re huge,” she said. “Every game means everything.”
K.V. (20-10) put together another fine season only to see the season end in the sectional again.
“It’s tough to lose to a team that you know you are right at the same level as, and they seem to move on year after year after year,” K.V. coach Brian Flynn said. “You’re right there, and you can’t get over the top.
“That’s discouraging, but we had a great season. We won 20 games again.”
Dobson allowed just four hits and struck out five.
“Some quality teams here, and it’s too bad we have to meet in the sectional and not somewhere else down the line,” Flynn said.
Baker-Runyon said her seniors are focused at the right time.
“This is their last hurrah, and I know that they want it more than anyone,” she said. “They proved it today.”