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Johnson turns in no-hitter
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A fourth-inning walk seemed meaningless at the time, but it was all that separated Rhealee Johnson from perfection Thursday night in the girls 9-10 junior league. The consolation prize for Johnson was still an impressive no-hitter.
Johnson was dominant for Gondola as she struck out nine and faced only 13 batters in a 13-0 blowout win over L&M Floors.
Johnson was flirting with perfection when the fourth inning started after she had struck out seven of the first nine batters she faced, including six in a row to start the game.  Meagan Davenport worked to a full count against Johnson to start the fourth inning though.  Hoping for her eighth strikeout, Johnson’s pay-off pitch came in too low, allowing Davenport to trot to first base as L&M Floors’ first runner of the game.
Johnson rallied back with two straight strikeouts and made the final out on a groundout back to the pitcher to end the game and notch her first no-hitter of the season.
Johnson was equally impressive in the batter’s box as she led the team with three hits and three RBIs. Her RBI single in the first inning was part of a four-run frame and she also added a RBI triple in a five-run second inning. She finished a home run away from the cycle as she doubled in a run in  the third.
Shelby Roberts  and Hailey Collett added two hits and two RBIs apiece. Macie Simmons, Ella Bond, Kaydee Rains and Mea Starkey each had one hit for Gondola, which improved to 3-1 with the victory. L&M Floors fell to 0-4 following Thursday’s shutout loss.
Clean Machine also emerged from Thursday night with a 3-1 record after beating McMinnville Aluminum 7-2.
Hannah Corley’s three-run, inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning broke the game open while Aleya Esparza pitched six strong innings to earn a big win Thursday night.
Clean Machine had built a 3-1 lead entering the sixth inning after RBI hits by Gretchen Stuart and Danika Reno in the first inning and an inside-the-park home run by Elia Atterson in the third inning.
Esparza and Stuart gave Clean Machine a pair of base runners in the top of the sixth inning when both reached on singles off Madison Hollis. Corley followed with the biggest hit of the night, a hard shot through the left side of the infield that reached the fence.
Esparza and Stuart scored with ease while Corley never stopped running and was able to beat the throw home for her first home run of the year. Reno would add an insurance run when she reached after being hit by a pitch, stole second and third and scored on a passed ball.
Taylor Swan used the same strategy to score in the bottom of the sixth after Esparza hit her to lead off the inning, but McMinnville Aluminum wasn’t able to mount much of a rally. Esparza had one of her 14 strikeouts in the sixth inning before the game ended with a groundout in front of the plate.
Esparza had a streak of six strikeouts snapped in the bottom of the fourth inning when Swan singled – one of only two hits for McMinnville Aluminum in the contest. After Swan swiped second, third and home, Marli McBride replaced her on base by slamming a double. Esparza walked the next two batters, loading the bases with no outs with her team clinging to a 3-1 lead.
Esparza was able to battle out of the jam when she struck out the next three batters, one of three times she’d strike out the side in the game. Her efforts helped Clean Machine tie Gondola atop the standings.
Gondola and Clean Machine will battle Thursday, May 29 at 5:30 p.m. with first place on the line. Gondola won the first matchup between the teams 8-2.
In this Thursday’s second game at Hoover and Millraney Field, McMinnville Aluminum and L&M Floors will face off at 7 p.m.