Softball: Heacox fires no-hitter to carry Ponies in tourney opener

By STUART GROSKREUTZ – Stillwater Gazette

NORTH MANKATO – Hannah Heacox didn’t allow a hit and – in keeping with the theme – had no idea she had just thrown a no-hitter in Stillwater’s 11-0 victory over Farmington in the Class AAA state quarterfinals at Caswell Park.

The junior allowed just two walks and struck out 11 to help the Ponies (19-8) enjoy a comfortable victory while making their first state appearance since 2008.

"I didn’t even know," Heacox said. "I was just trying to pitch strikes and I didn’t even know I had a no-hitter until they announced it."

The Tigers (17-5) entered the tournament with a .306 team batting average, but barely threatened to break up the no-hitter, which was the 33rd in the history of the state tournament dating back to 1977.

"Hannah had probably the best location that I’ve seen this season and was able to use all of her pitches," Ponies coach Bob Beedle said. "She clearly no-hit them. They did not hit a ball hard all game."

Heacox admitted there were some butterflies, which may have been tempered after waiting out a three-hour rain delay to start the tournament, but she was in control throughout.

"I felt like I was in the groove when I started warming up after the delay and after that I was just really focused," Heacox said.

The lineup, including Heacox with a team-high three hits, provided plenty of offensive support while pounding out 13 hits – from eight different players – and taking advantage of four Farmington fielding miscues. Just two of the runs charged to Tigers pitcher Ashley Betzold were earned.

Stillwater scored a run in the first inning and, after squandering some other scoring opportunities, took control with three runs in the fourth before pulling away with two in the sixth and five more in the seventh.

"That helps a lot," Heacox said of the early run support. "It makes me feel good that I know they’re going to be there offensively and defensively."

Carlie Hart doubled to lead off the game and Haley Balzart followed with a single to provide an early spark for the Ponies. Allison Eder-Zdechlik lifted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Hart from third for Stillwater’s first run of the game.

Natalie Gerber drove a one-out hit for the Ponies in the fourth and Heacox followed with a base hit before Rachel Hartwig reached on an error that allowed Gerber to score for a 2-0 lead. Sidnee Ronsberg drove a single to right field to score courtesy runner Katie Burton and Hartwig for a four-run cushion.

Five of Stillwater’s 13 hits went for extra bases and Eder-Zdechlik doubled to lead off the two-run sixth. Gerber followed with an RBI single and later scored when Hartwig reached on an error.

The Ponies added five runs on four hits and two errors in the seventh. Balzart delivered an RBI single and Heacox plated two runs with a base hit to left for a 9-0 advantage. Hartwig plated another run with a double to left-center and Lauren Jordan also rapped a pinch hit double to the gap to complete the scoring.

"It was just a great team effort," Beedle said. "We hit the ball as well in that game as we have all year. We just kept pounding the ball and we hit well up and down the order. We had a lot of base runners, but didn’t bury them until the sixth inning."Heacox admitted to some pre-game butterflies and Beedle suggested the rain delay may have benefited the Ponies.

"I thought the rain delay worked to our advantage because I thought the kids were too amped up," the coach said. "We took infield and could hardly catch the ball os I honestly think the rain delay helped us. We went back to the hotel and the kids seemed to relax and they weren’t as intense on our way back to the park and they were able to relax and perform up to their abilities."

"It’s just exciting being here," Heacox added. "I’ve never been to a state tournament before so it’s really cool. Our hitting is really coming together as a team and our chemistry is really good."

Stillwater1 0 0 3 0 2 5-11130

Farmington0 0 0 0 0 0 0-004

WP: Hannah Heacox 7-ip, 0-h, 0-r, 0-er, 2-bb, 11-so

LP: Ashley Betzold 7-ip, 13-h, 11-r, 2-er, 1-bb, 3-so

Leading hitters: St, Carlie Hart 2×4 (2B), Haley Balzart 2×3 (RBI), Allison Eder-Zdechlik 1×3 (2B, RBI), Natalie Gerber 2×4 (RBI), Hannah Heacox 3×4 (2B, 2 RBI), Rachel Hartwig 1×4 (2B, RBI), Sidnee Ronsberg 1×2 (2 RBI) and Lauren Jordan 1×1 (2B, RBI).