MONROE — Trying to get the 21 outs required to beat Masuk has been a hex no team has solved in over a year.
Giving the Panthers extra chances makes it even more of a mountain to climb.
Several defensive miscues by Barlow led to a series of big hits, including RBI hits by Maddie Procyk and Kaitlyn Welch to give the No. 1 Panthers their 30th win in a row, a 3-1 decision over the Falcons Monday afternoon in a non-league matchup between SWC contenders.
After blitzing Staples and Ludlowe by a combined 26-0, a test was welcome against Barlow, which got a stellar pitching performance from Claire McCann.
“This was definitely a good game for us to have too,” Masuk coach Leigh Barone said. “We can’t go every game having 16 hits; Claire did a great job moving the ball in and out, throwing them off with the changeup and coming up a little bit. We had a lot of fly balls; when you put it in play things happen.”
Barlow committed a trio of errors, and also dropped a pair of balls in foul territory while Procyk was at bat. One led to a laser down the line to plate the game’s first run in the third inning. The second led to a walk with one out that was followed by an error and insurance runs.
“Everyone in the dugout was like, ‘new life,’ and I knew I had to get it done for my girls on base,” Procyk said. “I was focused on getting them in and do it for them; that’s what was going through my head.”
“We got the pitching that we needed and Claire brought her ‘A’ game,” Barlow coach Craig Sears said. “We didn’t make the plays behind her and we have to catch the ball. You can’t allow a team like Masuk four, five or six outs an inning.”
The Falcons found a pulse in the seventh inning with a pair of hits that led to the first run of the season allowed by Masuk. Procyk settled back down and retired two straight to end the game.
“Both teams made errors here and there,” Procyk said. “When I was pitching I knew which batters I really had to work on. It was a good challenge because we don’t see too many good pitchers like Claire.”
Ava Slavinsky gave the Falcons their lone run with an RBI groundout in the seventh.
LEXUS OR PORCHE?
The absurd benefit of having two aces offers no boundaries. The two teams will face off later in the regular season, — and possibly the SWC and Class L playoffs — and the ability to save Sam Schiebe until a later matchup is something most can only dream of.
“I don’t want them too one or the other too much as well and start catching on,” Barone said. “It’s such a luxury to have two dominant pitchers. I can rely on either pitcher any day and it’s such a great thing to have; a lot of people pray for one dominant pitcher and you have two.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Maddie Procyk, Masuk: Allowed just one hit through six innings in addition for going 1-for-1 with two walks. She struck out 11 batters.
“It hurts because we were right there,” Sears said. “I liked our effort, I thought it was good. We just have to clean a lot of things up if we’re going to compete at a level of a team like this.”