EAST PEORIA — Schlarman's offensive woes on Saturday were not an anomaly for Monmouth United softball opponents.
Batters have spent four seasons trying unsuccessfully to contend with pitches from Southern Illinois University signee Katie Bertelsen.
Saturday's 6-0 Class 1A title-game shutout was her state-record 80th. The pitching win was the 103rd of her career, which ties the IHSA's all-time record.
A day after she became the first pitcher in the 36-year history of prep softball in Illinois with 1,600 career strikeouts, Bertelsen added another 15 to her total to finish more than 120 ahead of the previous career record-holder.
Every Schlarman batter fanned at least once.
"She had very good movement," said Schlarman's Lohgan Bryant, who stopped short of listing Bertelsen as the top pitcher the Hilltoppers had faced this season.
"We all thought (Regan) Romshek (from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) was quicker."
Freshman shortstop Brittany Hay, who wowed media members with her defensive exploits, would like another shot at Bertelsen.
"We needed to go in with more confidence," Hay said. "She was hittable."
Bertelsen's presence — along with four other seniors who were four-year starters — demonstrated how quickly a program can turn around.
In the four years preceding Bertelsen's arrival, the Monmouth program had a cumulative record of 12-63. In the last four years, the record is 120-18.
Positive ending. Schlarman head coach Randy Skaggs didn't want his 14-player team leaving the Peoria area with the on-field loss as their final memory of a season where they opened with 25 consecutive victories.
"I told them, 'Don't plan anything. We're going to do some things,' " Skaggs said. "We'll head to the water park, come back and watch the 2A title game (which features a Shelbyville team Schlarman defeated 4-2) and then go out to eat," he said. "I'll pay for that."
The team's postseason banquet is scheduled for Monday night.
Fine finish. Time has a way of changing a person's feelings.
Had someone told the Hilltoppers on March 1 that of the 171 softball-playing schools in Class 1A, they'd be in second place at season's end, they'd have been delighted.
"I would have said, 'That's awesome,' " Lohgan Bryant said, "but when it came down to it all we wanted was to get first."
Regardless of the outcome, Saturday's title-game experience will remain a memorable one.
"Unimaginable," senior Kelsey Sollars said. "My freshman year, I never thought I'd see myself in state games."
Teammate Hay, who concluded her freshman year against Monmouth United, said the magnitude of the game was tough to comprehend until she had played in it.
"People can say it's a big thing, but you can't explain it until you're here," Hay said. "The fans helped out a lot."
Stealing the marks. Overlooked from the Hilltoppers' Friday semifinal win were two Class 1A state tournament records that were broken. Hay stole two bases, which is a single-game mark, and overall Schlarman had five thefts, raising the previous standard of three.
In addition to Hay, other Hilltoppers with stolen bases against Hardin Calhoun were Lohgan Bryant, Randi Cookus and Ja'nelle Marion.
No regrets. Skaggs was pleased by his team's demeanor and approach to the finals.
"There was no fear factor," he said. "We were not intimidated. I'm proud of what we accomplished and how well we bonded.
"We would have liked to have finished first, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way."
Seven of the 14 Hilltoppers on the state tournament roster are seniors: Lohgan Bryant, Darrian Chrzanoski, Randi Cookus, Lynzie Fields, Kelsey Moreland, Kelsey Sollars and Chelsea Willis.
They will all be missed, Skaggs said, but one player has been under his tutelage since fourth grade.
"It's tough to say goodbye to all of the seniors, but especially Lohgan," he said. "We've been together for nine years. She stepped up today and showed she was here to compete."