Spartans’ Sheehan wins clash of rival aces

Carrie Sheehan didn’t come close to blinking.

In a matchup of two of the state’s top softball pitchers, the Cimarron-Memorial senior outdueled rival and Palo Verde senior Melissa McCormick on Monday.

Sheehan threw a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and crushed a three-run home run in the third inning to lift the Spartans to a 4-0 road victory.

“It’s always been a competition between me and Missy to see who can outpitch who,” Sheehan said. “When we play Palo, we always have such great games. It’s always a pitching duel.”

Both Sheehan and McCormick have been varsity pitchers since they were freshmen, and they have had some memorable duels. In 2009 they hooked up in a 14-inning beauty, won by Cimarron 2-1, in which winner Sheehan struck out 16 and McCormick fanned 22.

But Monday have been Sheehan’s best performance against Palo Verde. She walked two and hit a batter, but only two Panthers reached second base, both with two outs.

“Carrie was very focused,” said Cimarron coach Steve Gorden, whose team is 8-4 overall, 3-1 in the Northwest League. “She said she was going to bring her ‘A’ game, and she did. When Missy and Carrie play each other, they’re both so focused because they have known each other for so long.”

Sheehan threw 69 of 103 pitches for strikes and fanned seven of Palo Verde’s first 10 batters, including five in a row. She effectively mixed a riseball, dropball, changeup and curve.

“She pitched just the way we asked her to pitch,” Gorden said.

McCormick tossed a four-hitter with no walks. She struck out 14, throwing 75 of 102 pitches for strikes.

Sheehan provided her own offense, picking on a high McCormick change-up and depositing it over the fence in left-center field with two outs in the third.

The Panthers (8-4, 2-1) should have been out of the inning before Sheehan batted, but a passed ball on a third strike allowed Stephanie Yacek to reach base with one out. Hannah Williams followed with a bunt single before a fielder’s choice erased Yacek at third. Sheehan ripped a 1-1 pitch for a 3-0 lead.

The Spartans added another unearned run in the sixth, again aided by Palo Verde’s fielding. After Sheehan’s one-out bloop single was misjudged in the outfield, courtesy runner Ashley Doherty stole second and eventually scored with two out when a third strike was dropped and a relay was thrown away.