ST. JOSEPH — Notre Dame pitcher Lauren Reinagel improved to 27-0 this season by beating Kirksville in a Class 3 state semifinal Friday.
Win No. 27 certainly was the most difficult victory yet for the talented right-handed junior.
Reinagel entered the contest with mind-boggling numbers. Besides her perfect record, she has nine no-hitters, two perfect games and entered Friday with a 0.14 ERA.
But Reinagel had to battle Friday. For 13 innings.
Reinagel gave up two runs, both earned, on six hits and one walk while striking out 16 batters in the Bulldogs' wild 3-2 victory.
"I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride this whole game," Reinagel said.
Reinagel's biggest inning was the bottom of the 10th with the score knotted 2-2.
Kirksville's Jackie Bishop opened the inning with a single, and an error put runners at first and second with no outs.
Kelsey Jacques followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third.
It appeared Kirksville was about to win.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett visited Reinagel and his infielders, telling them to look for the suicide squeeze.
Kirksville hitter Blair Riley did attempt a bunt, but she popped it up to third baseman Brooke Glastetter, who was cheating in toward the plate.
"A lot of stress went off me," Reinagel said about recording the second out in the frame. "We only had to pitch to one more batter. But Brooke, I'm glad she caught that."
The next batter, Jessica Foglesong, lined out to first base. Notre Dame had avoided a Kirksville celebration.
"That's what she is here for," Graviett said about Reinagel. "That's what we needed out of her. We've relied on her all year long to get it done for us. She was in a big spot. She is a big-time player. She proved that today. She was able to battle through it."
Reinagel never got down, even after she relinquished two leads. Her offense gave her a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth, only to see Kirksville tie it in the bottom of the inning. Reinagel also had a 2-1 lead in the 11th, but Kirksville again tied it in the bottom half.
"What battling," Graviett said. "You've got to have that to win at this level. Not only are the pitchers better, but the hitters are better. So you expect them to come out and get the bat on the ball a little bit better than what she's seen this year."
Reinagel said it was frustrating to keep giving up the lead, but she was determined not to let it happen again in the 13th.
"It was so frustrating," Reinagel said. "Every time we came up with a run, they would come back with another one. They are an amazing hitting team. They have really good hitters. I was expecting that, too. But every time we got a little farther, they'd come and take it right from us."
Reinagel will pitch again today. She said she had never pitched a 13-inning game and that her arm was sore. But she said she would be ready for the title game.
"I might be a little sore tomorrow," Reinagel said. "But I think once I start pitching, I'll loosen it up and it will be fine.
"I feel like I know where I am at. I know what it is worth. I know what I have to do. I'm more concentrated. I'm not as nervous as I was last year. I was a rookie at it last year. Coming out here I knew what I needed to do, and I did it."