AURORA — Alexis Rayburn crossed home plate on a wild pitch in the first inning. Offensively, that's all she needed to. She shined with the ball in her hand on defense, striking out 16 and not allowing a hit until the sixth inning.
It was behind that performance that Strasburg beat Eaton 3-0 to repeat as the Class 3A state softball champion.
“I couldn’t believe it," Rayburn said. "I was shocked we won it again and I was very thankful that my team had my back. Especially Ashlyn Richardson, my third baseman, she comes over and talks to me all the time, gives me encouragement. My catcher, Jodie, she gives me a ton of encouragement. She frames my ball really well. I couldn’t believe it when it first happened but then it processed that this was my last game. I was sad but very happy at the same time.”
She was nervous heading into Saturday's championship game. Eaton had come off a semifinal performance where it scored 11 runs in the first inning alone. The Reds (22-6 overall) scored 48 runs in the first three games of the tournament, but couldn't get any across the plate against the Indians (22-5). It said a lot about the way Strasburg came together to perform at a championship level.
“We went through a lot of adversity and stuck together," coach Michelle Woodard said. "They knew if they could do that, we would be in this game. Eaton is a great team and we knew it would be a tough one, but Lexi threw a great game today.”
Where Eaton came into the game seemingly with plenty of fire power, Strasburg had suffered a slight setback in its semifinal win over Faith Christian. Third basemen Ashlyn Richardson suffered a dislocated finger in that game, but there was no way she was going to miss the title game.
She even cleanly fielded both ground balls hit her way.
“To be honest, you don’t really think about it when you’re out there. You just have to play in the moment and have each other’s backs. So, no I wasn’t thinking about it.”
Richardson was on third base in the bottom of the fourth when a ground ball hit by Rayburn went through the glove of Eaton shortstop Jennifer Jamagin.
Richardson and Emily Johnson both scored to make it a 3-0 game, more than enough breathing room for Rayburn who had settled in at that point of the game.
"Once I settled in and got through the lineup once I was a lot more comfortable,” she said.
Eaton had seen Rayburn twice this year, splitting those two games. Coming in for the third game didn't put her at ease as much as it made her nervous that the Eaton hitters had seen her pitch twice already.
"They know my spins, they know how I run and bat," Rayburn said. "We tried to change things up this time, but we just kind of stuck with what we knew so it was actually harder this time playing it twice.”
— Daniel Mohrmann (@DanMohrmann) October 20, 2018
This is the fifth state championship for Strasburg. They've won all their titles since 2012. This is the second time they've won back to back crowns, doing it first in 2012 and 2013.
“It doesn’t happen very often but we’ve been blessed twice,” Woodard said.
Rayburn and second baseman Trystyn Carlmark are the only two seniors on a Strasburg roster that will head into 2019 hunting a third-straight title.