CARTERVILLE -- Pinckneyville junior Addie Waggoner was making her third straight start in the circle and only her fifth appearance since returning from a 19-game layoff. But she was evidently 100% back -- no-hitting undefeated Mt. Carmel, 6-0, in the sectional semifinal and following with a two-hitter to knock off 33-game winner Carterville, 2-1, on its home field to win the Carterville 2A sectional title Saturday.
"First of all Carterville is excellent and that's one thing I want people to understand -- this was a tall task," said Pinckneyville coach Alan Engelhardt. "The expectation for people was that we weren't going to win today, but when you are playing with house money you can relax a little bit and again it's about doing things right. I think for a while now we've been doing things right and that's led to two wins here this week."
The Lady Panthers (21-14) advanced to the 2A Johnston City Super-Sectional Monday and if they beat Freeburg (31-1) would be returning to the Final Four for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
After pitching one inning in relief in her first game back and going three innings in the next game, Waggoner made her first start in the regional semifinal and pitched five innings giving up two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts and three walks to eliminate Du Quoin, 9-2.
Waggoner came back three days later to face Zeigler-Royalton-Christopher a week ago Saturday, but she faced only two batters and threw two pitches to a third before the game was shut down because of weather.
Last Monday the game was resumed and Waggoner finished what she started, throwing a no-hitter for six and two-thirds innings before settling for a three-hitter and a 5-2 win. Waggoner went 1-for-3 at the plate with a double and a run scored.
She was back in the circle again last Thursday for the sectional semifinal after it was canceled on Wednesday because of weather. The Panthers were facing a monster Mt. Carmel team (23-0) that came in batting over .400 and averaging more than nine runs a game.
"It was a good day to win," Waggoner said. "I think we would have pulled through yesterday, too, but it was nice to get another day of rest and be able to go full out."
The right-hander was almost perfect, holding the Lady Aces to just one base runner until she lost her perfect game on a four-pitch walk with one out in the seventh. The game ended on a double play eight pitches later.
"We've been saying positive vibes all week," Waggoner said. "It was nice to go out there and pitch and let my defense back me. Everything was really working. My curve came through today after not working against Zeigler. On the walk I just lost it for a minute, but in the end TK (Taylor Kurtz) made that good play to get them out. She's a really good shortstop -- she's got a cannon (for an arm)."
Bella Morgan and Shea Pyatt drove in one run each with the other four coming on errors. Waggoner, who bats in the ninth spot, went 1-for-3 with a double.
Saturday morning Waggoner made her fourth start over a 10-day period facing a Carterville team (33-2) that hadn't lost at home all season and was averaging 8.5 runs a game.
"We knew going in it was going to be a tough one," Waggoner said. "I just wanted to throw as many strikes as I could."
Showing that her second no-hitter of the season and third of her career had been no fluke, Waggoner held the Lady Lions to just three base runners over the first four innings -- a leadoff walk in the second and a leadoff single followed by a two-out walk in the fourth.
"For some reason my fastball wasn't working in the fourth, but I ended up getting out of it and my defense made plays," Waggoner said.
Pinckneyville had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a leadoff single by Zoey Kellerman followed by a double by Riley Harris.
Waggoner helped her own cause, driving in the winning run in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out line drive single to right center after Bella Morgan reached on a throwing error by the catcher on a bunt.
"That was pretty nice," Waggoner said. "I was mad I swung and missed on the first pitch, but I was 'OK, I just have to step up and hit the ball in play."
Carterville cut the lead in half in the fifth when Karson Caudill led off with a single that was almost caught in short center by Emily Ruppert. Waggoner then walked Sadie Ziegler on four pitches.
After uncorking a wild pitch on the first pitch to Kayelyn Rice, the outfielder hit a ground ball at third. Cheyanne Pauley forced Caudill back to third before throwing out Rice at first, but Caudill scored anyway on the throw along with Ziegler advancing to third.
Amayah Doyle, who had popped out to center in the first and was caught looking in the third finished the game 0-for-3 when she hit a ground ball to short and Taylor Kurtz threw home to gun out Ziegler at the plate.
"I struggled that fifth inning, but my defense played behind me," Waggoner said. "I wasn't hitting my spots as well as I should have been and they were putting the ball in play, but we got out of it and that was nice. When we scored that second run I said we got this because I knew I was going to hold them."
Waggoner struck out Kennedy Rushing to end the fifth and retired the last six batters on 24 pitches to finish with a two-hit and two-walk effort.
"It was just we had to finish the game because we want to go to state -- that's our end goal," Waggoner said.