Jay County High School junior Larissa Boles throws a pitch in the first inning Thursday against Norwell at JCHS. Boles struck out a season-high 13 batters and only gave up one run on three hits in the Patriots’ 5-1 victory over the Knights. Jay County improved to 9-0 on the season with the win. (The Commercial Review/Chris Schanz)
Jay County High School junior Larissa Boles throws a pitch in the first inning Thursday against Norwell at JCHS. Boles struck out a season-high 13 batters and only gave up one run on three hits in the Patriots’ 5-1 victory over the Knights. Jay County improved to 9-0 on the season with the win. (The Commercial Review/Chris Schanz)
Larissa Boles has been fooling opposing hitters all season.
She picked the perfect time to step up her game, pitching the Jay County High School softball team to a 5-1 victory Tuesday at home against the Norwell Knights, who were just outside the top 10 in the most recent Class 3A poll.
The junior struck out a season high 13 — one off her career best — walked one and surrendered three hits to help the Patriots win their ninth straight game to start the season.
“That just takes a lot of pressure off your defense because they only had to make eight outs,” JCHS coach Doug Arbuckle said. “To have that on the mound, it makes our defense relax.
“I thought she had great command of her pitches. She was really changing the inside and outside stuff. The key for her to continue to be a good pitcher is hitting her spots.”
The Knights (7-2) went down swinging for the game’s first two outs, and Boles fanned the first two to start the second as well. She threw eight straight strikes to start the inning, as 11 of the 12 pitches she tossed in the frame were inside the zone.
With two outs in the second, Norwell got the game’s first hit when Jorey Wall bunted for a single, but Boles struck out the next batter to end the threat.
Jay County broke the shutout in the third after Chloe Steigerwalt bunted for a single and Chelsea Tighe hit a base knock up the middle to put runners on first and second. Courtney Finnerty grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, and Boles had an infield hit to drive in Tighe to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
They tacked on three more runs in the fourth to take a commanding lead.
Katlin Petro smacked a double into the right field gap, and Katie Aker drove in Kristen Simons, who was inserted as a courtesy runner for Petro. Aker reached third on Gabby Hart’s sacrifice bunt when Norwell failed to cover the base.
Mikayla Gross bunted for a base hit and advanced on a stolen base, and Steigerwalt — who along with Aker led the team with two hits— cleared the bases with a two-run single before she was thrown out trying to take second.
With a comfortable 4-0 lead, Boles went back to work, only allowing one base runner in each of the final three innings. Wall walked in the fifth, Caitlin Herndon rifled a double into the gap in the sixth and Wall launched a 1-0 pitch in the seventh around the left-field foul pole for a home run.
By then, it was too little too late for the Knights.
“I don’t know what it was for sure, but we couldn’t get anything going,” Norwell coach Herb Bergman said. “(Boles) did a nice job hitting her spots. I just don’t think we were ready. We were flat footed (and) not turning on the ball.”
Boles was able to locate her pitches all over the strike zone, and she credited catcher Catherine Dunn for helping her out by framing the plate. But what was most effective in her success on the mound, she said, was reading the batters in the box before the pitch and reading their stance to determine where to pitch.
It was the inside corner Boles kept going back to.
“A screwball on the inside is my most consistent pitch, so when they crowded the plate I knew they wouldn’t be able to get their hands through quick enough,” said Boles, who is 8-0. “Until they began to time me, I took it easy on myself by staying inside since it’s the easiest pitch for me.”
While she did make a few mistakes, she was able to bounce back by not compounding them.
“That’s where the mental part of the game comes in,” she said. “If I dwell on a mistake that I made, my whole team pays for it and the other team feeds on my negativity.
“So it’s a choice … make myself step it up or let the team down by getting down on myself.”