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Peru’s Kaitlyn Gibson (right) and La Salle’s Kaitlyn Bauer look to the umpire after Gibson tagged Bauer out when she attempted to score on a wild pitch during Peru’s 13-3, five-inning victory Tuesday in the 9- and 10-year-old District 20 title game. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Peru 9- and 10-year-old All Star coach Jamey Mertel feels he has a game changer in Kaitlyn Gibson.
“Obviously, it begins and ends with Kaitlyn Gibson,” Mertel said. “She’s one of the most dominant 10 year olds in the state of Illinois.”
She certainly was dominant Tuesday.
Gibson struck out 11 batters and belted a home run to lead Peru to a 13-3, five-inning victory over La Salle in the District 20 championship game at Veterans Park in Peru.
“She’s throwing harder than any 10-year-old I’ve seen,” Mertel said. “My daughter and her are on the Starved Rock Bandits. We went around all Northern Illinois. We played teams in Bloomington and the Quad Cities. I just have never come across somebody like her who throws that hard and hits that hard. She’s just dominant.”
Gibson’s performance helped Peru to its fourth consecutive 9-10 District 20 title. Peru, which reached the section title game last season, advances to the Section 1 Tournament in Freeport. Peru plays the District 9 champion at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how Gibby steps up against higher competition as we climb the ladder,” Mertel said. “I think she’s really going to respond. I know the Sterling-Rock Falls area is always tough. There’s a team from the suburbs — LaGrange is going to be there also. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple wins and come back to state in Peru (at Veterans Park).”
Peru pounced on La Salle early Tuesday with five runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Gibson drove in a run with a double in the inning, while Elia Becker had an RBI single and Mady Keffer smacked a two-run single.
Peru tacked on two more in the second when Gibson smacked a solo homer and Morgan Zuchora scored on a wild pitch.
Peru scored two more runs in the third and ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule by scoring four runs in the fifth inning.
“We knew coming into this La Salle was going to be our main competition,” Mertel said. “Fortunately, we were able to beat them the other night and knock them to the loser bracket, and they had to burn their best pitcher Kaitlyn Bauer (on Monday). … Coming into this, we knew their best pitcher was down. We wanted to jump ahead. We knew once we got that lead with Gibby on the mound, they weren’t going to catch up. They got some there at the end there. We got a little sloppy with our handling of the ball. We’ll work on that before we go to the sectional.”
La Salle scored its first run in the fourth inning when Alyssa Ernat scored on a wild pitch. Olivia Ernat and Emma Pyszka scored in the fifth as La Salle capitalized on a pair of Peru errors.
“I thought we played really good,” La Salle coach Mike Urbanski said. “We came out flat the last two games, but (Tuesday), we were on our toes and we worked really hard. I thought we played an excellent game. They should all be proud of themselves.”
Note: Gibson, Happ and Jacey Mertel were all on last year’s Peru team that won a district title.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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