CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central senior pitcher Morgann Paaske wasn't aware she was throwing a no-hitter until she sat down on the bench during the bottom of the sixth inning of Thursday's Fox Valley Conference game against McHenry.
That's when teammate Olivia Arndt clued her in.
"Olivia went up to bat, and right before she did, turned to me and said, 'Oh, by the way, you have a no-hitter,' " Paaske said. "And I'm like, 'Olivia, don't say that!' "
Paaske's no-hit bid was thwarted soon after, when McHenry's Maddy McDaniel blooped a single to left field to open the top of the seventh.
McDaniel was one of only two base runners allowed by Paaske, whose one-hit complete-game shutout stole the spotlight as the Tigers (8-8, 3-4 FVC) coasted to a 5-0 victory. Paaske retired the first 15 batters she faced and had a perfect game entering the top of the sixth.
McHenry's Lauren Schmitz led off the sixth with a screaming grounder back at Paaske, which the pitcher snagged with a backhand grab. Her ensuing throw to first missed the target, and flew up against the right field fence in foul territory. It was Paaske's only other blemish.
"I like to keep the ball inside against a lot of right-handed hitters because they can't get their hands around fast enough, and it jams them," Paaske said. "That approach was working well for me today."
Paaske credited backup catcher Ellie Berg's pitch-calling as another reason for her success Thursday. Berg started behind the plate in place of Jessica Cruz, who was in the lineup but is nursing a jammed finger.
"During the third inning, Ellie noticed McHenry's hitters were chasing a lot of riseballs and pitches high in the zone," Paaske said. "So we made that pitch our primary focus and started using fewer dropballs or pitches down in the zone."
Pitching with the lead seemed to give Paaske a confidence boost. Sophomore Valery Novy's solo homer to left in the bottom of the first – her second longball this season – put the Tigers in the driver's seat early.
"You get that initial jolt of adrenaline anytime you hit the ball out of the park," Novy said. "I just got an offspeed pitch over the heart of the plate and made solid contact."
Paaske (2 for 2, walk) helped her own cause with a double in the first and an RBI single in the third, which resulted in an additional run on the play after a throwing error.
"As good as Morgann was, our defense played really well behind her throughout the game, too," Central coach Brian Strombom said. "That was a big factor."
McHenry (7-10, 3-5) has lost its past three games after winning five in a row. Warriors coach Mikaela Mitsch preached positivity to her team after the loss.
"Our girls have a lot of determination and want to win every time they're out there," Mitsch said. "But we're thinking too much, and we're anxious at the plate. We had a nice run going, then lost to Crystal Lake South, Prairie Ridge and now Central today. Just three tough outcomes these past three days."
The Warriors got a solid bullpen effort from lefty pitcher Alyssa Pearson. In four innings of relief, she allowed an unearned run, one hit, struck out three and walked one.
STAR OF THE GAME
Morgann Paaske, Crystal Lake Central, sr., P
Paaske retired the first 15 hitters she faced and took a no-hitter into the top of the seventh inning.
4: McHenry batters who hit the ball out of the infield against Paaske during the Warriors' 23 combined plate appearances.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Central leadoff hitter Jessica Cruz was 2 for 4, while No. 9 batter Lily Sternberg was 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.
Crystal Lake Central 5, McHenry 0
McHenry 000 000 0 – 0 1 2
Crystal Lake Central 202 001 X – 5 6 1
WP: Paaske (7IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 6K). LP: Sellek (3 IP, 5H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 4K).
Top hitters–Crystal Lake Central: Novy 1-3 (Solo HR), Paaske 2-2 (Double, RBI, BB), Cruz 2-4 (Double), Sternberg 1-2 (BB). McHenry: McDaniel 1-3.