PAXTON -- Going into Thursday's game against Paxton-Buckley-Loda, Madison Eberle of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley softball team was second on The News-Gazette's area strikeout list with 143.
Eberle added 13 strikeouts to her resume en route to pitching a four-hit shutout for GCMS in a 8-0 victory.
“She's doing a great job as our go-to (pitcher) as a freshman,"GCMS head coach Taylor Rubarts said. "She's really maturing as the season goes on and holding her composure really well in difficult situations. She's definitely doing a great job with her strikeouts, and our defense is coming in behind her when she's having games when she's getting hit a little bit more.”
Eberle retired the first 11 batters she faced before PBL's Cassie Oyer got on base via a single to center field with two outs in the fourth inning. Eberle then struck out
Cassidi Nuckols to end the inning, leaving Oyer stranded on second base.
“I've got to give Madison credit. She's an excellent pitcher – the best we've seen all year," PBL head coach Kelli Vaughn said.
Meanwhile, Nuckols shut out GCMS (8-7) through the first four innings as well.
Eberle hit a leadoff single in the first inning and would advance to second base on a passed ball, but would be left stranded as Nuckols struck out Dani Eckerty, Hailey Rutledge and Megan Moody.
Mady Schutte reached second base with one out in the second inning for the Falcons, but Maci Bielfeldt struck out and Emily Clinton lined out to Nuckols.
In the third inning, GCMS loaded the bases as Makenzi Bielfeldt singled, Eberle reached base on an error and Ecker sent a base hit to left field with nobody out. They would all be left stranded, however, as Rutledge and Moody each struck out swinging and Lauren Leonard grounded out.
In the fourth inning, Schutte led off with a single before getting tagged out at third base on a Clinton single.
“Our kids battled early. We made some good plays early in the ballgame," Vaughn said.
The Falcons took the lead in the top of the fifth inning as Eberle hit a leadoff single before stealing second and reaching home plate on a Moody single to left field.
“It took a little bit to get going, but they're still learning," Rubarts said. "We're going to keep getting better as we continue here.”
In the next at-bat, Leonard singled to right field as Moody crossed home plate on a PBL throwing error. Schutte then double to left field to send Leonard across home plate to extend GCMS' lead to 3-0 before getting tagged out at third base.
“I give them credit. They got some timely hits," Vaughn said.
The Panthers (2-11) tried to get a rally going as Leslie Lawson doubled to center field and Dalaney Rogers singled to right field with one out, but Emil Adwell and Jolee Hastings each struck out to leave the baserunners stranded.
“I think our kids gained confidence as the game went on. I think at first, they saw her speed and the variety of pitches that she was throwing. I think they were a little bit intimidated, and as the game wore on, I think they got a little bit more confidence," Vaughn said.
"We saw a couple of kids put the bat on the ball. I told them, 'She's providing the velocity. If you can make contact with the ball, it's going to fly.' You've got to give her a lot of credit and them a lot of credit. They played with confidence, and I thought our kids played with confidence early.”
The Falcons added two runs in the top of the sixth inning as Clinton reached base via a PBL error with one out before Makenzi Bielfeldt singled to center field and Eberle hit an RBI double to center field to send Clinton and Bielfeldt across home plate.
“Against a team like that with Madison pitching as she was, you can probably battle from a two- or three-run deficit, but once it starts climbing to four or five runs, it's going to be tough to get those runs back," Vaughn said.
In the seventh inning, GCMS scored three more runs.
Moody and Leonard each singled before Schutte hit an infield fly ball that was not caught by PBL's defense before the Panthers failed to get the fielder's choice at third base.
“We just stopped communicating late in the ballgame," Vaughn said.
Maci Bielfeldt then hit an RBI single off the right-field fence before Clinton hit a line-drive single to center field to send Leonard home.
In the next at-bat, Makenzi Bielfeldt grounded into a 1-2-3 double play as Schutte was forced out at home plate.
“There were times tonight when we looked great. We made a nice play there late in the game," Vaughn said.
Maci Bielfeldt then scored on a passed ball to make the score 8-0.
Kelsey Vaughn singled to right field with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning for PBL, but Lawson flied out and Rogers struck out looking to end the game.
“We're getting better," Kelli Vaughn said. "Our deficit is getting smaller as far as the run total, but it has been a struggle. We're struggling to hit the ball from the top of the order to the bottom of the order collectively.
"We're getting some kids at the top of the order putting the bat on the ball and getting on base, but we're not putting together consecutive at-bats. That's hurting us right now.”
The Falcons finished the game producing 15 hits as Eberle hit 3-for-5 and Moody, Leonard, Schutte, Clinton and Makeni Bielfeldt each had two hits.
“That's good for us," Rubarts said. "Sometimes, we have a hard time getting our bats going, but tonight, we really got our timing down and were aggressive and got some really nice hits tonight, which is a good thing for us.”
Due to low numbers, and a band concert, at PBL, there were no junior varsity innings played following the varsity game.
“We're still working. We're coming every day and working hard. We've got to get some more kids out for softball. We need some junior varsity games. We need to get some younger kids some experience. Like I've been saying all year, we're throwing some of these young kids into varsity softball who've never played an inning of JV softball and who've never played an inning of junior high softball, and they're in the starting lineup in the varsity game," Vaughn said.
"They're learning quickly, but sometimes, it kind of rears its ugly head when something you think is routine as the coach doesn't become routine to the kids because they just aren't aware that's what needs to happen. I know they get frustrated with it.
"I get frustrated with that, but you've got to give GCMS a lot of credit. They came to play. They played well. Taylor's doing a great job with those kids. I'll still go to battle with my kids every single day because I know they want to do well. I know they want to win ballgames, and they're here every day and working hard. We're going to keep working.”
In the meantime, Rubarts -- a PBL graduate -- said she was glad to be back on the field on which her senior class played the first season of PBL softball on its current field.
“It's nice," Rubarts said. "It was fun to come back and be able to coach here and coach against Kelli (Vaughn), one of my old coaches. It was nice to be back.”
The Panthers travel to Bismarck-Henning on Friday.
“We'll see if tomorrow's result is a little bit better than tonight," Vaughn said.
GCMS 8, PBL 0
GCMS 000 032 3 -- 8 15 0
PBL 000 000 0 -- 0 4 3
W -- Madison Eberle, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 13 K, 0 BB. L -- Cassidi Nuckols, 7 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 8 K, 0 BB.
GCMS (8-7) -- Eberle 3-5, 2B, 2 RBIs. Mady Schutte 2-4, 2B, RBI. Lauren Leonard 2-4, 2 R, RBI. Megan Moody 2-4, 2 R, RBI. Emily Clinton 2-4, R, RBI. Makenzi Bielfeldt 2-4, R. Dani Eckerty 1-4. Maci Bielfeldt 1-4, RBI, R.
PBL (2-11) -- Leslie Lawson 1-3, 2B. Kelsey Vaughn 1-3. Cassie Oyer 1-3. Dalaney Rogers 1-3.