POWELL – Katelyn Wilhelm outdid herself with 19 strikeouts.
The senior right-hander went the distance in the circle and added a two-run triple to blow open a 6-1 victory for the Olentangy Liberty softball team over rival Olentangy Orange to open OCC-Buckeye play under the lights Wednesday night.
Wilhelm got her first 12 outs via the strikeout, including nine of the first 10 batters she faced. She allowed just one hit, walked four and hit a batter.
“I was taking it one batter at a time and not worrying about it,” Wilhelm said. “I find when I don’t think about it – I do better. (My) back-door curve and my curveball were definitely working today.”
It’s the sixth time already this season that Wilhelm has struck out more than 10 batters in a game, surpassing her high-water mark of 17 in a victory over Central Crossing Apr. 3.
“She was in the zone tonight – I can’t even say tonight – she’s been doing that the whole season so far,” Liberty coach Cari DeAngelis said. “She really had something extra tonight.”
“She throws a little bit harder than we’ve seen,” Orange coach Mason Robinson said. “She has a little bit of that rise-ball, screw-ball that not a lot of pitchers in high school can throw. Hat’s off to her – she is a good pitcher.”
Wilhelm is no stranger to big games in the circle. She pulled a Johnny Vander Meer with back-to-back no-hitters her sophomore year.
Arica Flaugher hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning to give the Patriots (9-3, 1-0) the lead.
Orange pitcher Brenna Oliver was seemingly finding her grove until a Dani Schoenly blooper fell into no-man’s land in right-center with two outs in the third inning.
“That’s hard,” DeAngelis said. “Those balls that just drop behind the infielders and the outfielders are crashing in – those are hard balls. We got lucky and the next person up – Arica – took advantage of it and that’s what we needed.”
Flaugher followed with a no-doubter over the wall in center to push the Patriot lead to 3-0.
“She crushed it,” DeAngelis said. “It was a great at-bat. She worked the count to her favor. She didn’t go after anything, but her pitch. She was on top of things (all night) and she hits the ball hard.”
Robinson spent last season with Liberty as an assistant.
“It’s always exciting to play the kids that you coached,” she said. “I still have relationships with those kids and coaches. So, it’s fun. We’ve been looking forward to this. That’s one reason that we put it under the lights.”
Morgan Powell led off the fifth inning with a walk and pinch-runner Delaney Phillips stole second and moved to third on an error before scoring on an Alli Rubal groundout to break up the shutout for the Pioneers.
Wilhelm finished off the scoring in the sixth inning when she hit a ball off the base of the wall in right-center to drive in two runs. She scored on the play because of a throwing error.
Oliver went the distance for the Pioneers (2-5, 0-1), but suffered the loss. She allowed six runs, five earned, on eight hits and two walks and struck out four.
“I didn’t want to play to their weakness, but more to what our strengths were,” Robinson said. “I think she did a good job when things went bad – she got gritty and got the next girl out. I’m really proud of her for that.”
Teresa Hawk broke up the no-hitter in the fourth with a single to left.
Liberty accepted canned food donations on behalf of People in Need of Delaware County. DeAngelis said before the game the drive and playing rival Orange was a great excuse to play under the lights.
“We didn’t get a cancer game together and we want to give back to the community,” she said. “So, this is something that we thought was a nice way to do that. I think we got a pretty good haul and we get to take it to People in Need and help out people in the community that don’t have as much as us.”
Both teams continue league play today. Orange hosts Westerville Central and Liberty travels to Westerville South. First pitch is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. for both matchups.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.