HARLAN — Perry (5-24) did all they needed to do Thursday in order to pull an upset over host Harlan (28-7) in their Class 4A Region 2 softball battle.
The Jayettes played nearly flawless defense, time and again making key plays and stranding Cyclone runners on base. They received a strong pitching performance from freshman Jayna Kenney. Table-setter Lydia Olejniczak picked up a base hit, with her speed leading to an error, which led to another error as the Jayettes forced the issue and took an early lead.
The only thing they could not to was solve senior pitcher Morgan Schaben, whose 16 strikeouts and one-hit mastery kept her team in the game long enough for Harlan to rally and claim a 3-2 victory.
Perry led, 2-0, entering the bottom of the sixth. Schaben drew one of only two walks issued by Kenney and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch as the hosts closed to within 2-1.
The ninth hitter in the Cyclone lineup was sophomore Miranda Goetz. She had two of the seven Harlan hits, and was hit by a pitch to open the seventh. A wild pitch moved her to second, from when she scored on a Kate Heithoff single.
Heithoff moved to second on the throw home, then advanced to third on a sacrifice fly. Schaben played the role of heroine, ripping a clean single through the infield to end the game and break Perry hearts.
The Jayettes had kept a massive home crowd silent for most of the contest. The Shelby County Fair began Thursday, with the annual parade passing near the diamond in the final innings, and the yearly event helped add to the attendance. Several fine defensive plays, particularly from left fielder Kennedy Tunink and third baseman Macy Killmer, helped keep the home team at bay.
Olejniczak singled to open the top of the fourth, with Kenney laying down a sacrifice bunt. The throw sailed into right field, with the relay throw wild, allowing Olejniczak to speed all the way around the bases for a 1-0 Perry lead.
Kenney scored later in the frame on another Harlan error, with Perry having runners on second and third with no outs, but Schaben induced a pop out and tallied consecutive strikeouts to limit the damage.
Perry had runners on second and third again in the sixth, but could not add to their advantage as a ground out and strikeout snuffed the rally.
Harlan stranded two runners in the fourth and one in the fifth and could have added to their total in the sixth but were again caught with two runners on base.
Kenney suffered the tough-luck loss, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks. She struck out two batters and hit two.
The win sends Harlan to Boone Saturday, with the winner facing the victor of the Carlisle vs Gilbert contest.
The game was the final outing in the prep careers of two Perry seniors, both of who will continue their softball careers in college. Gabby West, who will play at Iowa Lakes, played in her final contest, while Adriana Eastman — out since June 12 with a broken thumb suffered against ADM — will take to the diamond for Grand View University.
The Jayettes were being coached Thursday by Jason Olejniczak and assistant Ashley Fricke, as head coach Tina Lutterman was out of state on a mandatory iJAG conference.