State girls softball teams are expected to go through an adjustment period this season as they get used to the idea that the pitching rubber is now three feet further back than it used to be.
The change was made to improve scoring and not let pitchers dominate games as much as they have in recent years.
But it looks like Homestead's Rachel Behnken and Bekah Rennicke have already made the adjustment as the heavily-favored Highlanders continued their early season dominance of North Shore teams with a 13-0 five-inning shutout of a game Nicolet squad Thursday afternoon.
It was the fourth straight blanking in as many league games for Homestead, as Behnken went the distance with 12 strikeouts.
"It's nice that we're in position to do something like that," said veteran Homestead coach Dave Keel. "Our girls (Behnken and Rennicke) are doing things very well at this point. But right now, it's just important for us to keep the momentum and to keep playing hard."
Nicolet coach Brad Kuehl, whose young team lost its second straight North Shore game after winning its first two, was not at all surprised at what happened this day.
"They're (the Highlanders) a senior-dominated team and they just have really, really good pitchers," he said. "They're something that we strive to become."
Homestead scored 10 runs in the first three innings to put the game away. In the five-run third, shortstop Michelle Zoeller (four hits on the day) and outfielder Siena Mitman each had two-run singles and catcher Amy Keel had a run-scoring double. Keel added a two-run double in the three-run fifth.
Behnken had to deal with a runner getting to third only once in the third (on an error and a wild pitch), but then she got Nicolet's all-conference catcher Emily Gadzichowski to strike out to end the threat. The Knights main highlight was the play of freshman shortstop Lanoira Duhart, who made several nice efforts on the day, including a gliding textbook 6-3 doubleplay off a hard struck grounder in the fourth.
"She does everything so smoothly," Kuehl said. "She just has natural instincts."
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