By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
Halle Miles and her Rogersville teammates may have seen Sullivan pitcher Hanna Johanning at her worst to begin this season, but at her best Thursday.
After not getting an out in her first outing versus the Lady Wildcats, Johanning didn’t allow a run against them this time around. The senior right-hander recorded a three-hit shutout in Sullivan’s 4-0 Class 3 Sectional win over Rogersville.
Johanning struck out 11 and walked four. Back in August at the Sullivan Tournament, she was hammered for four runs in the first inning by the Lady Wildcats without retiring a batter.
“Last time, we killed her,” said Miles, who also struck out 11 Thursday. “But she made huge adjustments.”
Johanning indeed showed incredible resilience, as did all of the Lady Eagles. They were without three players, including their lead-off hitter, due to COVID-19 quarantine issues.
“I really had to step up and keep my head on for them,” Johanning said of Sullivan’s quarantined players. “I tried to forget about the first game against (Rogersville). I wanted to control what I can control. I made sure I hit my spots. I knew if I hit my spots that my defense would back me up.”
Sullivan didn’t commit an error. Rogersville hitters made it relatively easy on the Lady Eagles’ defense by lunging for low, outside pitches and popping out six times.
The wind was blowing out toward left field and Lady Wildcats coach Denny McHenry thought his hitters were thinking home run.
“I told our girls that in the first three innings it looked like everything was a home run cut for us,” McHenry said. “We were swinging from our heels. We weren’t watching the ball.”
“They struck out a lot on my changeup and my curve ball was making them pop up quite a bit,” Johanning said.
Both Johanning and Miles felt pitching against the wind helped their breaking pitches break more than usual. Both pitchers had a shutout going through the first four innings.
“The win helped both of us,” Johanning said. “(My curve ball) was moving quite a bit and my catcher was framing it perfectly. She did a great job getting me those outside curve balls over the plate.”
Johanning allowed a lead-off double to Rogersville catcher Jenna Lane in the first inning, a one-out double to third baseman Cassidy Coambes in the fourth and a one-out single to Miles in the fifth. But the Lady Wildcats (27-7) finished with seven stranded baserunners.
Miles tipped her cap to her counterpart.
“She’s a very good pitcher,” Miles said. “She spun it really good. It was hard to hit it square. She stayed mentally strong and stayed up. That’s a huge part of the game.”
Sullivan reached Miles for two runs in the fifth on a two-run single by Kayla Ulrich. In the seventh, Ulrich followed up by hitting a two-run homer.
“I think I left it on the plate too much,” Miles said of her pitch that Ulrich lined over the center-field fence. “I wish I would have got it more outside. I think I pitched good. It was a good performance. They’re a good team and good hitters are going to hit.”
“Our pitcher threw her butt off,” McHenry said.
Sullivan (19-9) advances to the Class 3 Final Four for the fourth time in five seasons. The Lady Eagles face Bowling Green (19-7) in one semifinal Saturday, while Blair Oaks (24-6) meets Savannah (17-1) in the other semifinal.