Taylor Pannell blasted three home runs and Campbell Kelley threw her first no-hitter as Rock Island softball was dominant in a Western Big 6 Conference doubleheader sweep of Alleman.
The Rocks won 12-0 and 14-0 at the Frances Willard elementary school field in two five-inning contests shortened by the 10-run mercy rule. Rocky (10-2, 5-0 Big 6) won its 15th straight Big 6 game after sweeping Alleman (1-3, 1-2).
A Pannell grand slam capped the opener in which Rocky scored eight runs in the fifth having after only one hit the previous three innings.
Pannell hit two more homers in Game 2 as Rocky scored at least twice in every frame.
Run support early and often helped Kelley stay calm and let her defense make plays. The junior struck out her second and third batters before tossing a grounder to first to complete the shortened no-no.
“I’ve never done that, it feels good to do that,” said Kelley, who improved to 5-0 after the no-hitter. “It feels really good to have that type of lead. On the mound, it’s a lot of relief off your back knowing your team is hitting the ball and having a good day at the plate.”
Two first-inning walks with two outs were Alleman’s only base runners against Kelley on Thursday. Rocky supported Kelley with 19 hits after 13 in the opener. Six Rocks had at least two hits in the later game.
Alleman put the ball in play, but Rocky’s defense did not miss when it mattered, making a couple close plays on ground balls.
“They definitely made some good plays,” Kelley said of the defense supporting her pitching. “It was definitely one of my better days.”
Eight different Rocks had RBIs in the second game. Three of Pannell’s four hits Thursday were home runs as the University of Tennessee softball recruit tallied eight RBIs, three stolen bases and scored six runs from the leadoff spot.
Delia Schwartz (4-2) got the win in the opener after holding Alleman to just three hits and two walks, striking out five. Schwartz singled, doubled and knocked in three runs to help her cause. Bailey Proffitt and Lexi Carroll each had two RBIs in the win.
Rocky coach Chris Allison said the team still needs to work on some things like base running and keeping consistent pressure on the opposing pitcher at the plate. He thought the offense took three innings off after scoring four in the first inning in Game 1, but he liked the progress his pitchers have made this season.
“We’ve got a tough week next week with some quality teams to kind of see where we’re at,” said Allison. “We’ll work on some things in practice and we’ll get us ready for that June 2 date (when regionals begin).”
The Rocks are scheduled to visit Geneseo Tuesday, Sterling Thursday in a Big 6 doubleheader, and Bloomington and Normal Community West in a quad at Limestone Community on Friday.
Kelley threw five innings on Wednesday in a 13-9 win over Sherrard.
Allison applauded her for the back-to-back effort as she continues to gain varsity pitching experience.
“She did a good job, her arm wasn’t sore, she felt good and threw a lot of strikes,” Allison said. “She only had those two walks and her defense had to play defense.”
Alleman coach Mike Ebner’s team has had two games rescheduled and another canceled early on. A Pioneers team light on numbers with little experience also has a couple players dealing with quarantine issues during this pandemic-altered season.
Ebner said improvement must start with effort and not “pouting” when things get tough.
“We have kids playing positions and playing varsity that shouldn’t be there,” he said. “We had three kids that didn’t go out and we have two that have to quarantine.”
Practicing early was also tough with overlapping sports. Ebner said some practices this season had only seven or eight kids.
“It’s just a tough situation. Kids don’t know the game and I’ve got to teach it better and we’ve got better attitudes. We pouted a lot today and that was disappointing,” Ebner said. “It’s our third game of the year. We’ve just got to work harder and keep at it. It’s going to take time, but we’ll get it.”
The veteran coach credited Rock Island and said Pannell is one of the best players he’s seen play.
“They’re a very good hitting team,” he said. “Give them one extra at-bat, which we gave them a lot more than that, they take advantage of it. And they made some great plays in the field. That’s our goal to be something like that. I was real impressed with them. Chris does a great job with those kids.”