EDGINGTON — The Rockridge softball team's quest for a return trip to the state tournament has started off with a bang.
After dismantling Mercer County 16-0 a couple days ago, the Rockets' high-powered offense struck again for 12 runs and the defense continued its impressive late-season performance on the way to a third straight regional championship with a 12-2 triumph in six innings over Sherrard on Friday night at Rockridge High School.
The Rockets move on to the Knoxville Sectional where they will play the winner of the Quincy Notre Dame regional on Tuesday at 6:30 pm.
"We had to come with a little extra intensity and be really disciplined hitters," Rockets head coach John Nelson said. "We were opportunistic early and we did a good job."
It was the third meeting between the conference rivals, and an uncharacteristic start doomed the Tigers.
Rockridge (29-6) tallied six runs through the first two innings and the majority of the damage came from three errors courtesy of the Sherrard defense.
"The errors hurt us today," Tigers head coach Mike DeLoose said. "Usually we play a tighter game."
Maddie Bayne pitched comfortably with that cushion, continuing her season-long dominance. The senior pitched five innings and struck out three on 67 pitches to collect her 17th win of the season.
"It gives me more confidence in the circle," said Bayne, who has won six of her last seven starts. "My defense will do the work from there."
Up 7-2 heading into the bottom half of the sixth, Rockridge ended it before the Tigers (13-12-1) even had a chance.
Five runs on four hits ended the game via the mercy rule after Kadey Garrett laced an RBI single that scored Daria Parchert. Rockridge had just seven hits for the game, and the Rockets' Hannah Nelsen saw her 49-game hit streak come to an end.
"We just had to keep our composure," said Parchert, who went 3-for-3 with four RBIs.
Sherrard stranded six runners up until the fifth inning, its first opportunity to score some runs.
After Bayne struck out leadoff hitter Kendra Mattingly, back-to-back singles and a walk brought up Taegan Randolph. Randolph, who started the contest for Sherrard, plated a run on an error by Kelsey Garrett. Karsen Elgas sliced a single to right field that plated the second run, but a base running error by Courtney Behn ended hopes for more.
"They're a good team," DeLoose said. "When we did have hits, they limited the damage, so hats off to them."
The Rockets have held their opponents to less than two runs in eight of their last nine games and are hungry for their season to continue.
"We want to get to state so bad," Nelson said. "The road is paved for us."