When Laney Roos took the field with her Aubrey teammates against Anna on Friday night, she agreed they would need to be at their best to win.
“We knew it was a big game,” Roos said. “We really needed a win to get the district lead. That was our focus.”
But when the dust settled after Nia Bengtzen’s quick-thinking play at shortstop to end the game, Roos had pitched a perfect game, and the Lady Chaparrals walked away with a 3-0 win to stay on top of the district standings.
“We just knew it was an important game,” Bengtzen said. “We knew we had to focus on every little thing in order to get the win. It wasn’t until coach [Kylie] Roos said, ‘Thank goodness you made that play! It got us a perfect game.’”
Bentzgen handled a hot grounder that bounced off of her glove, then quickly threw to first for the final out of the game.
“It was a close play,” Aubrey coach Shon Ranton said. “She probably only beat the runner by a step. The entire infield did a great job. It was a total team effort.”
Roos wasn’t dominating in the circle as is the case in many perfect games. She struck out only four, but she allowed only one fly ball to the outfield. She allowed no runs or walks, and the defense backed her up with perfect play. Roos faced only 21 batters in the seven-inning game.
“You know she is on her game when she gives up a lot of ground balls,” Ranton said.
The Lady Chaparrals fielded 16 chances cleanly to preserve the gem for Roos.
“There were some hard-hit balls that were played perfectly,” Ranton said. “There were quite a few good plays.”
Aside from the play Bentzgen made to end the game, Ranton was quick to point out that Emma Spears made some nice plays in the gap at second base.
Bentzgen pointed out that without Hannah Howell catching their throws at first base, their plays would not matter.
“She catches everything we throw to her,” she said. “She is involved in every play.”
Roos was quick to point out that it’s a team game, and this was a perfect game by the team.
“My job is to throw strikes, get the lead-off batter out, and let the defense work behind me,” she said. “The defense did a great job behind me.”
Ranton started noticing that Roos and his team had a perfect game going in about the sixth inning.
“I knew we had a chance, but I was not going to say anything,” he said with a smile.
Roos also had an “idea” that it was a possibility.
“I tried not to think about it,” she said. “I just tried to concentrate on hitting my spots and getting outs.”
When the final batter for the Lady Coyotes hit a sharp grounder to shortstop, Bentzgen got to the ball but it bounced off of her glove. She quickly recovered.
“I just picked it up bare-handed and threw as hard as I could to Hannah at first base,” she said.
When the out was recorded, Roos and her team had a perfect game.
More important to all of them was the win and retaining the district lead.
Roos joined some elite company with the gem.
Ranton said there have been a few perfect games thrown by Aubrey pitchers.
“I don’t want to short anyone,” he said. “But a few that I remember: Kylie Roos, Sarah Looper, Stephanie Mohon, Kelsey Redding. … She is definitely in good company.”
Roos was happy to get to add her name to the list.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be named with that group,” Roos said. “Now we just need to beat Melissa to stay in first place. Then we need to keep winning.”
“It was a nice game,” he said. “We played great defense. Now we have a big game against Melissa and that is where our focus is.”
Bentzgen thinks the win will keep the team motivated.
“It was definitely a boost for us mentally to know that we just played a perfect game to stay in first place,” she said. “We know that we have to stay focused if we want to keep winning.”