WINTHROP — Weather has slammed an already small window on the fingers of every MVC softball team. Monmouth is one of many clubs that will play a majority of its season over the next nine days.
When you’re tackling that kind of schedule, you’d better have a pitcher performing at the zenith of her game.
Mustangs junior Reen Kahl clearly falls into that category. Kahl chalked up a no-hitter and spun her second straight shutout Wednesday, guiding Monmouth to an 8-0 victory over its pesky neighbors from Winthrop.
“I felt relaxed today,” Kahl said. “We came in feeling pretty confident, coming off a big win over St. Dom’s.”
Monmouth (4-2) scored a dozen runs in knocking off the previously unbeaten Saints. Offense was at more of a premium against Winthrop (1-5), which played arguably its best game of the season.
The Mustangs mustered only five hits, banging out four of those in a four-run, sixth-inning rally against Winthrop’s Amy Belanger.
“I’ve got to give Winthrop credit. They kept us off balance for three or four innings,” Monmouth coach Rachel Bernier. “We had to change our strategy and try to get some runners on base and play small ball.”
Daisi Poole scored a run and drove in three for Monmouth. Her sharp, two-run single to center field made it 5-0 in the sixth.
That was more than enough support for Kahl, although this wasn’t one of those customary softball no-hitters in which the perpetrator rang up strikeout after strikeout against an overmatched lineup.
Kahl did whiff nine Ramblers, but five of those were called third strikes on the corners. Two of the swinging strikeouts were capped by Kahl’s looping, tantalizing off-speed offering.
“I like the change-up this year. I changed it again,” Kahl said. “I just like throwing it better. It’s a lot slower than it used to be, but it’s a different grip, too.”
Infield errors in each of the last two innings prevented Kahl from flinging a perfect game.
In the sixth, Monmouth quickly erased the runner when catcher Poole fired a perfect strike to Kristi Hilton and caught Meg Scully trying to steal second base.
Both Hilton sisters, Kristi at second and Kelsie at third, made strong throws to nail Winthrop hitters by a half-step at first and preserve the no-hitter.
“Everybody contributed, which is what you want,” Bernier said. “We’ve got a long haul ahead.”
Kahl scored a run in the second inning after reaching second base on a dropped fly ball. Bri Hicks’ infield single then set the table for an RBI groundout by Poole.
Monmouth made it 2-0 in the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Poole walked. Natalie Young reached base after Winthrop mishandled her sacrifice bunt attempt. Poole raced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Colby Wilson’s bunt.
“We’re a pretty good bunting team,” Kahl said.
“Even with two strikes I had a batter put one down successfully, which we’ve been struggling with,” added Bernier.
Chelsea Arsenault, Kylie Kemp and Young joined Poole with hits in the sixth. Kristi Hilton and Young had RBIs.
In the seventh, pinch hitter Sabrina Bean walked and Kemp was hit by a pitch. Both scored when the Ramblers couldn’t snag Kahl’s windblown, two-out pop-up.
Sasha Flaherty reached on a booted grounder with two out in the bottom of the seventh. Kahl coaxed Abby Helm into a slow roller to Angie Bechard at first to end it.
Belanger struck out five in a strong complete-game effort for the Ramblers, who were beaten 25-0 by Lisbon a day earlier.