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No. 6 Black Hawk upsets No. 3 Monticello in opener
Black Hawk sophomore Kayla Melland gave up just one unearned run and pitched out of a bases loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning in the Warriors 2-1 win over Monticello on Thursday.
MONTICELLO - Black Hawk sophomore Kayla Melland looked to be on the ropes when Monticello loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday.

But Melland pitched out of the bases loaded, no-out jam to preserve the Warriors' 2-1 win over the Ponies in a WIAA Division 4 softball regional quarterfinal.

"I was extremely nervous as you could tell with everyone on base," Melland said. "I was really scared and I thought it was going to go downhill from there. I knew I just had to throw strikes."

With the Warriors clinging to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Black Hawk got off to an inauspicious start.

The Warriors' defense caved in and made a couple of mental breakdowns. Monticello sophomore Taylor Klitzke led off the seventh by beating out an infield single. Ponies senior Courtney Erb hit a grounder to Black Hawk shortstop Paige Butler, who flipped to Riley Argall at second, but Klitzke beat the force out. Alyssa Zimmerman then bunted and Melland fielded the ball and looked at third to prevent the game-tying run from scoring. When she threw to first, Zimmerman beat the throw.

"We made poor decisions with where to go," Black Hawk coach Roger Jackson said. "It didn't look good with bases loaded and no outs nursing a one run (lead)."

With the bases loaded and no outs, Taylor Pfeuti hit a comebacker to Melland, who threw home for a force out. Melland struck out Tanya Smith and got senior Mary Hershberger to ground out to finish one of the biggest games in her pitching career.

"I would like to think my 1-2-3 hitters could come through with something," Monticello coach Duane Garrison said. "We are getting runners on, but we are not getting the big hit when we need it. These last three games, we haven't got the big hit. Black Hawk made the plays. It's a tough way to lose. You hate to see the seniors lose like that."

Black Hawk (7-13) will play at Barneveld on Tuesday, May 26.

Jackson knows softball can be a game of inches.

"I was just hoping that Hershberger wouldn't get a hit," Jackson said. "If she gets a hit, then I could just see the headlines, 'Hershberger pitches and hits Monticello to victory.' I told the girls I don't need any more gray hair."

In a pitchers' duel between Melland and Hershberger, Black Hawk broke through against the Ponies in the sixth. Hershberger walked Jordan Rupnow to lead off the sixth. Ashley Schiferl came through with a sacrifice bunt, and senior Gabi Lehner, who was 2-for-3, singled. Black Hawk sophomore Melissa Wellnitz struck out, but reached base on a dropped third strike and Rupnow scored the game-tying run. Butler then delivered the go-ahead RBI single, which just squirted through the infield to right and proved to be the game-winner.

"I just knew I had to put the ball in play," Butler said. "I just tried my hardest and got the hit. I'm just really glad I got the run in. We came in kind of confident. We didn't come in cocky because if you are it can bite you in the butt."

Melland seems to enjoy the challenge of pitching against Monticello. She shut out the Ponies 4-0 in her last start against them. On Thursday, Melland limited the Ponies to just one unearned run, which came on an error in the third. She scattered six hits and only walked one.

Hershberger was just as impressive, giving up one earned run on four hits. She struck out seven and walked two.

Jackson said throwing strikes is the name of the game.

"That's what the other seven or eight are out there for - to chase the ball," he said. "She (Melland) kept us in the game. In the last four games she has pitched three good games. I'm pretty happy when we get a strong-pitched game."