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A little extra incentive: Meinert fans 15 as Boone Grove bests South Central in matchup of PCC aces

UNION MILLS -- There was some chatter going around before Boone Grove's game at South Central on Wednesday.

"We came into this game and everybody who had played them was telling us their pitcher was the fastest pitcher in the PCC," Wolves coach Ron Saunders. "Lexi (Johnson)'s a good pitcher. We struggled against her before. She beat us last year. But I think maybe Nat took that personally."

Speed isn't the only asset of a high-level pitcher, though Saunders was right. His pitcher, Natalee Meinert, was a little irritated by the talk.

"It got me going," Meinert said. "I know she's a good pitcher. It pushed me even more and honestly I think it pushed the team as a whole. If we could make a statement against her, that means we're ready for any other pitcher in the state or whatever."

Both responded emphatically in the Porter County Conference game, Meinert striking out 15 Satellites and the Wolves scratching Johnson for nine hits in a 7-1 win.

"Warming up, I knew it was going to be a good game," Meinert said. "Me and my catcher (Kalli Brady) have been working so well together. My movement pitches were working. I was confident in them, I was confident in my catcher. We just kept talking throughout the game and, as you could see, it was a lights out game for me. That was definitely my best appearance this season."

Meinert allowed two hits, a Johnson infield single in the first, and a Val Horne home run in the third. After that, a trio of walks accounted for S.C.'s only base runners.

"I can't say enough about Nat, 15 strikeouts against a good team," Saunders said. "That was one of her best games of the year. A lot of the kids, she overpowered. I think she surprised a lot of kids. I'm prejudiced, but I think I have the best pitcher in the PCC."

Already Boone's career leader in strikeouts (398), the Wolves junior fanned the side three times, including a finishing flourish in the seventh.

"I can't take anything away from Meinert. She's an outstanding pitcher," Satellites coach Tony Wallace said. "A lot of the kids went up swinging, which I'm glad to see. I only recall a few called third strikes. She likes to paint her corners. She's got a lot of movement on the ball. I had a pinch runner ready to go four, five times, and couldn't get her out on the field. We only had four, five baserunners all night. We know we can hit her, we've just got to get the errors down."

Even with the limited offense, it was defense that did in South Central, as Boone's first four runs were unearned, the result of three Satellites errors.

"The top three (PCC) games were the errors. If not for that, we'd pretty much have been there every game," Wallace said. "I was still confident until the last inning. It was 4-1, even with the errors, and we were still in this. Lexi did decent, we just didn't back her up at times. Ever since I've been here, we've never been a team who could allow teams to score on our errors and be able to redeem ourselves. We have to play sound defense in order for us to be able to capitalize. We can't extend the credit of making errors and them scoring and have to go out and collect payment. It doesn't work that way."

Boone (11-2, 5-1) clipped Johnson for three runs and four hits in the seventh, started by Maria Otero triple. Freshman Chayse Duerr laced her second double and scored for the second time on an Amanda Powell's single.

"I don't care what the averages say, I knew they could hit," Wallace said. "He's always got a quality program. They're very sound fundamentally. You've got to play defense before you play offense, especially on your home field. I don't care who you are. Like we told them, don't get down on yourself. We've just got to play better defense."

Otero (three runs) and Powell had two hits and Emily Veschak drove in three runs for the Wolves.

"We've kind of been waiting for this from these girls, and it's coming at the right time, two more weeks or so to go," Saunders said. "We've had some blowout games and a couple games where we just didn't show up. That happens every year. You can't go into a game, No. 1, feeling you've already won. You also can't go in thinking because you didn't score in the first inning, you're going to lose. Our two best hitters hardly did anything. Everybody else stepped up. I'm just super pleased."

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