Every pitch hurt.
Gritting her teeth through the pain of playing with cracked ribs, Pine Creek's Haylee McKeehan rode adrenaline to a clutch performance that earned her Eagles a second consecutive league title. The senior struck out eight - including five of the game's last six outs - to help Pikes Peak 5A No. 2 Pine Creek (16-3, 5-0 5A CSML) beat No. 1 Rampart (16-3, 4-1) 6-4 Thursday in her final game on her home field and clinch the league championship.
McKeehan, who said she injured her ribs while pitching in a recent game, was too spent and sore to jump as high as her teammates while celebrating the victory. She was still all smiles after the game, despite holding bags of ice against her ailing midsection.
"I just gutted it out, and I was relying on my team to have my back whenever they hit it," said McKeehan, who improved to 11-1 on the season. "I'm really excited, and I think we're going to do really well (at regionals)."
The Rams were riding a 14-game winning streak, and Pine Creek was boasting a seven-game streak of its own, so something had to give in both teams' final regular-season game.
Pine Creek coach Dave Warhoe was proud of his squad for clinching the league title by defeating an extremely tough opponent.
"Our pitcher was playing with cracked ribs, and you knew she was in pain, but she still pitched a wonderful game," he said. "The kids came through when they needed to. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and we were pretty evenly matched."
The Eagles forced Rampart to strand two runners in the first inning and a runner on third in the second before getting to Rams starter Alyssa McDowell in the third.
Four hits, including a two-run double by Bailey Meyer, gave the Eagles a 3-0 advantage after three. Rampart countered with a run in the fourth on an Amy Watkins RBI single, but Pine Creek tacked on three more in the fourth thanks to another two-run double by Meyer and a sacrifice fly by Leigh Taylor.
Kelli Warmouth tripled and scored on a wild pitch to lead off the fourth for Rampart, and the Rams entered the seventh in a 6-2 hole. Back-to-back doubles by Warmouth and Kara Jones and a sacrifice fly by Jenna Malone cut the Pirates' lead to 6-4 with two outs, but McKeehan struck out Watkins to end the game.
"The girls did a great job today and have done a great job all season long, but we just fell (short) in this one," Rampart coach Becki Pepper said.
Jones was 3 for 4 and Warmouth 2 for 4 with two RBIs to lead the Rams.
Meyer, a sophomore, finished with four RBIs and scored a run for the Eagles. Alexis and Miranda Martinez joined Stephanie Warhoe with two hits apiece for Pine Creek.
Meyer said: "We just knew that Haylee had us, and we had her back if she needed us."