STE. GENEVIEVE – Allie Kelly retrieved her rosin bag behind the pitching circle and calmly jogged toward the Central dugout without realizing what she had accomplished.
The junior right-hander was quickly informed of a completed seven-inning no-hitter that seemed to her like usual business, but was anything besides ordinary on Thursday afternoon.
“I felt more comfortable [today] than when I pitched here my freshman year, just because I’ve gotten more confident working over the offseason,” said Kelly, who had previously thrown a no-hitter in summer club competition. “I just think I have a better presence on the mound now.”
She was backed by 14 hits of offensive support, and the Lady Rebels cruised past Ste. Genevieve 8-0 to maintain firm control of second place in the MAAA standings.
Taylor Marler and Chloe Coppedge each finished 3-for-4 overall, and Central (7-3, 5-1) scored three times in the third and fifth frames to help solidify the eventual outcome.
Kelly finished an 86-pitch masterpiece with 15 strikeouts, and retired 21 of 23 batters. She issued leadoff walks to opposing pitcher Faith Lincoln in the third inning and Morgan Schwent in the seventh.
Second-year head coach Taylor Geile, a Central graduate and former collegiate pitcher in her own right, enjoyed the performance of Kelly as her team won its fourth consecutive game.
“She is always locked in and focused. Her demeanor is good on the mound,” Geile said. “You can’t ask for anything better than a no-hitter.”
Lincoln and reliever Autumn Basler also helped to create a brisk contest than spanned just 76 minutes by consistently throwing strikes in defeat.
But the Dragons were simply overpowered at the plate on this occasion. Kelly fanned eight during her initial progression through the Ste. Genevieve order.
Senior shortstop Jessica Hulsey sparked the initial scoring rally for Central with a single leading off the second inning, and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
The Three Rivers signee slid home on an errant throw after Marler narrowly missed a home run on a long double to straight-away center field. Ella McClanahan made it 2-0 on a sacrifice fly.
Lincoln picked up a couple of crafty strikeouts on off-speed deliveries during her five innings, but was touched for 12 hits as the Lady Rebels gradually built their lead.
Hulsey ripped a key two-run double with two-outs in the third to drive in Aubree Eaton and Coppedge before Marler found the left-center gap for her first of three RBI.
Kelly resumed pitching in the home half with confidence and a 5-0 lead. She needed just one warm-up toss before aggressively attacking the Dragons again.
“As we get deeper into the game, I usually shorten the warm-up just so I don’t have to wear myself down,” Kelly said. “I think this was just another game. But Ste. Gen. has been a rival of ours in other sports, so that might have had something to do with my motivation.”
McClanahan preserved the no-hit bid in the fourth as a slow roller with unorthodox spin by Izzy Basler glanced off Kelly’s glove. The freshman alertly fielded the ball and retired Basler by a step.
Coppedge pounced from behind the plate to corral a bunt earlier in the frame, and Central increased its cushion with plenty of loud contact in the fifth.
Kelly doubled after Coppedge slapped a leadoff hit, and Marler drove in both with a single that skipped directly over the corner of third base.
Freshman left fielder Kelsie Politte increased the lead to 7-0 with her second single in three chances, and Kelly became the fifth player for Central with multiple hits in the seventh.
“We attacked the ball. We weren’t taking many strikes,” Geile said. “We were aggressive at the plate, and hopefully it stays that way.”
Kelly cleared her toughest remaining hurdle when senior standout Brittney Kreitler flied out to Eaton about 12 feet from the center-field fence for the first out in the seventh.
Courtesy runner Hope Schmelzle and Schwent each had one stolen base for the Dragons, who scored double-digit runs in each of their five most recent victories.
Outfielders Izzy Basler and Bailey Deck registered defensive assists for Ste. Genevieve by throwing out runners attempting to stretch singles at second base.
Autumn Basler retired six of her seven batters faced with two strikeouts.
Eaton and McClanahan singled for Central.