EATON — Throwing a no-hitter is a tough task to accomplish.
Throwing a perfect game is even more difficult.
Eaton’s softball team celebrated both feats last week on back-to-back days, as junior pitcher Annika Gels dominated Oakwood and claimed 13-0 and 16-3 wins.
To make the accomplishments even more special, Eaton’s junior varsity pitcher Carsyn Lammers also pitched a perfect game the same day as Gels.
According to a spokesperson with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the OHSAA does not keep junior varsity records, but he was unaware if any other schools in the state had ever pitched two perfect games at the varsity and junior varsity level on the same night before.
Gels pitched the first perfect game of her career on Thursday, April 5. She struck out 12 and allowed just three infield ground balls for the other three outs in the 13-0 win.
“She’s worked her tail off. Being a three-sport athlete, I didn’t know if it would be possible. But she put in all that work. So she definitely deserves it,” Eaton coach Maggie Neanen said. “I’m very proud of her. I don’t call the pitches. Becca (Mowen) does. A lot of that goes to her in knowing Annika’s groove.”
Neanen said she had never been a part of a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game.
“All of that was new to me,” she said of the perfect game. “I didn’t realize it until I sat down in the bottom of the fifth and looked at my chart. It was great.”
Gels and the team tried to downplay the perfect game.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates because, obviously, I couldn’t have done it without them,” Gels said. “Becca caught great game. I don’t think she gets a lot of credit. I didn’t start thinking about it until the top of the fifth, when we went out to play defense.”
“She’s a very selfless player and gives a lot of credit to her defense and to Becca,” Neanen said. “They were very happy for her and for our team. Without Bailee (Worley) and Alysa (Sorrell) making those catches and plays, Annika doesn’t have that perfect game.”
Eaton scored early, plating a pair of runs in each of the first two innings for a 4-0 lead. They added another run in the third and six more in the fourth.
“We came out strong and knew we had to take care of business. We hadn’t played in a week so I was a little worried,” Neanen said. “But behind Annika’s perfect game we didn’t have to play much defense. She pitched extremely well and kept her pitch count low. Getting us a big league we were able to get everyone in and Shay Perry got her first career hit. I’m very proud of our girls and the way we competed and stayed focused.”
As a team, Eaton collected 15 hits. Bailee Worley went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Lexi Miller was 2-for-3 with four RBIs. Ashley Earley was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Rilee Worley and Bailey Sheperd each added a pair of hits.
“Our goals are set on winning league and it was just one more league win that we have,” Gels said.
The next night, Gels struck out seven in the no-hitter as Eaton improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Southwestern Buckeye League’s Southwestern Division.
Gels retired the first nine batters of the game, before an error allowed the Jills their first base-runner.
Eaton scored three in the first, four in the second and two more in the third to take a 9-0 lead.
Oakwood finally scored a run in the fourth on an error and tallied two more in the fifth aided by Eaton misplays.
“Beating a team the night before and having our pitcher pitch so well and then playing that exact same team is hard to keep our focus,” Neanen said. “We lost our focus around the fourth inning causing us to have three errors, two which were back-to-back, and we ended up letting them score three runs. We are a better team than that. We won, which you have to celebrate, but our goals are set high so we can’t afford to take innings off, especially not plays off. We continue to be proud of the offense we are putting up, you can’t be mad at 15 hits back-to-back nights. I’ll take it.”
Not only did Gels pitch well, she had solid night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a home run and two doubles. Mowen was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Miller went 2-for-2 with an RBI.
While Gels was throwing what is believed to be the first perfect game in program history at the varsity level at Oakwood, Lammers and the junior varsity team were doing the same at home.
Lammers struck out eight in the 27-0 win.
“It felt really good. It felt awesome to do something I never thought I could ever do,” Lammers said. “I didn’t think about until the end. That last out felt incredible. The team supported me really well. There were a few hard hit balls, but my defense was there to back me up.”
“I think they played well as a team” Eaton junior varsity coach Leslie Copper said. “Everybody did their job the way they are trained to do and they were just having fun. I tried not to think about it or look at because I didn’t want to jinx it. I knew going into the last inning there was a chance.”
Neanen said it was a special night for Eaton softball.
“As a head coach, four years ago, I never thought it would have been possible,” Neanen said. “But (junior varsity coaches) Jen (Couch) and Leslie have done a great job with the girls. The talent has come a long way at Eaton. I’m super excited and blessed. I’m just amazed.”
Eaton was scheduled to play Brookville on Monday, April 9 and Franklin on Tuesday. The Eagles will visit Brookville on Wednesday, Bellbrook on Thursday and Monroe on Friday. They will close out the week with a trip to St. Henry for a doubleheader on Saturday.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH