DEKALB — Monday’s DeKalb 1A Supersectional came down to two plays at the plate.
For the Panthers, it ended in a play with Nikki Mertel tagged out. For the Clippers, it ended in the only run in the game as the Amboy Clippers downed Putnam County 1-0 in the supersectional at Northern Illinois University’s Mary Bell Field.
It’s the second time in two years the Lady Panthers have made it to the Elite Eight only to be sent home from DeKalb empty-handed.
The game went scoreless for the first four and a half innings, with Panther pitcher Shelby Yepsen sending the first eight batters she faced back to the dugout. Amboy right-fielder Delaney Wilhelm took a base on balls and ended Yepsen’s three-up, three-down streak in the third inning after two outs. Yepsen was able to get back into stride and ended the threat.
However, with two outs in the fifth, Yepsen again put a runner on base after walking left-fielder Hannah McCoy. That brought Wilhelm back up, who belted a triple out to the warning track in deep centerfield. McCoy was able to score when the throw from centerfielder Stephanie Wilson was cut off by first baseman Vanessa Voss on its way to catcher Carly Gonet at home. The next batter would pop out to Voss, but the damage was done.
“I just wanted to make contact,” Wilhelm said. “At first, I thought it might go out, but I just ran as fast as I could.”
The Panthers’ chance to even the game came in the top of the sixth with two out and PC’s Nikki Mertel on second base.
Putnam County’s Annie Miller hit a single through the right side of the infield as Nikki Mertel raced home from second base. Wilhelm picked up the rolling ball and threw it on a fly to catcher Kaitlyn Liebing up the first base line just a bit.
Liebing spun around to her left and tagged Mertel, who slid wide of the plate in hopes to evade the tag, for the third out.
“Delaney has such a good arm,” Liebing said. “I knew we had a chance when it was coming. It was a great throw.”
Wilhelm received the game ball from her teammates for her efforts.
“Delaney came up huge for us,” Amboy coach Kelly Whitman said. “She was just unbelievable.”
The seventh inning saw Gonet and right-fielder Allison Voss get on base, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize and bring the girls home.
Karlee Doege picked up the win for the Clippers, pitching seven innings with five strikeouts, five hits and a walk.
“I was shaking out there on the mound,” Doege said. “I just knew I had to calm down and throw strikes. This is pretty unbelievable. We’re going to state.”
Yepsen pitched an excellent game during six innings with six strikeouts, allowing only four hits but walking two.
The Panthers close the year at 28-8.
* Notes: The Clippers (22-9) will face Campbell Hill Trico (32-3) at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the EastSide Centre in Peoria. Campbell Hill beat Athens 1-0 at the DuQuoin Super-sectional. It marks the first State finals appearance for both schools as well as for Sciota West Prairie (26-9) and Altamount (27-4) who will meet in the day’s first game at 10 a.m.