It was not a perfect game, nor was it a no-hitter.
But Plainfield Central senior-right-hander Kaleigh Nagle would be hard pressed to pitch a better game than she threw Thursday against Southwest Suburban Prairie rival Minooka.
Nagle allowed three only baserunners and none got beyond first base as the Wildcats scored a 1-0 victory.
Not bad for one of the area’s best shortstops.
“If Kaleigh had her druthers, she would be at short every game,” Central coach Anne Campbell said. “But she knows we need her on the mound. Pitching how she is, it shows just how much work she has put into it.”
Nagle (7-1) had allowed one runner through four innings — on a dropped line fly to center. The first hit for Minooka (4-3, 2-2) was Kelsey Smith’s line single in the fifth. Losing pitcher Jackie Lilek (2-1) grounded a one-out single up the middle in the seventh.
And that was it as Nagle needed a mere 72 pitches to complete her masterpiece.
“About all I threw were fastballs and changeups,” Nagle said.
The timing could not have been better for the Wildcats (7-3, 3-1). Both teams suffered tough conference defeats Tuesday — Plainfield South blanked Central 2-0 and Minooka lost to Plainfield East 2-1 — and felt they could not afford a second loss in three days.
“Losing the last one added more intensity today,” Nagle said. “Our conference is stacked this year. It used to be you had to bring your ‘A’ game against the top teams. Now you need it against everybody.”
Nagle, the leadoff hitter, also had three of Central’s five hits against Lilek, who was victimized by an uneared run in the second inning. Timi Tooley reached on a one-out error, went to third on Tara Cannella’s double off the base of the fence in left-center and scored when Lilek knocked down Gretchen Egly’s hard ground ball, picked it up and fired home too late to get the sliding Tooley.
Central had at least one runner on base in every inning but the fourth, but Lilek met the challenge. She struck out six and walked one. Nagle also struck out six, all in the first four innings, and walked nobody.
“I just told Jackie (Lilek) how tough this one is to take,” Minooka coach Mark Brown said. “Now, we almost have to win out if we want to win conference again.”
Brown said Nagle “always is tough on us, and she kept us off the bases.” She prolonged the lull the Indians’ offense has been in.
“I thought we would come out today with more life in our offense, but it didn’t happen,” Brown said. “We’ve scored two runs total in our last three games. We are in an offensive slump.
“To go into the fifth inning without a hit and not have a runner reach second, that’s unusal for us. Things didn’t bounce our way.”
The Indians put a couple of scares into Nagle, but Rachel May flied out just shy of the warning track in center in the fifth, and Tooley tracked down Jorden Larsen’s fly to center a couple of feet from the fence in the sixth.
“Neither team hit the ball much,” Campbell said. “But we got a run in, which we didn’t do Tuesday [against South], when we left 10 runners on base, and Kaleigh pitched a phenomenal game. She and [catcher] Kristina [Shahan] worked well together. Her ball was moving effectively.
“This was a good win for us, especially since we didn’t think the field would even be playable.”