MONTICELLO — There's something about Monticello High School and pitchers.
They go together like cream and cheese, like face and book, like soft and ball.
For more than a decade, the Sages' program has produced a line of stellar softball pitchers. Jaimey Watrous is upholding the tradition.
The senior right-hander fired her eighth shutout of the season — twice escaping bases-loaded jams — as Monticello topped Argenta-Oreana 6-0 Thursday.
The Sages (19-6) are on the verge of a 20-win season, and Watrous has surpassed what she anticipated a decade ago.
"I started pitching in second grade," she said, "but I didn't want to. I didn't see myself as the pitching type. I said, 'Pitching is not for me.' "
With encouragement from her father, who practiced with her in the yard, she gave pitching a chance.
"Over the next few years, a lot of others who attempted pitching had stopped, and I kept at it," she said.
And now, at a school that has produced the likes of Molly Lawhead, Ginger Reeser, Melissa McConaha, Jenna Harshbarger and Karli Harshbarger — all of whom were All-Area first- or second-teamers since 2000 — there's another entry for the list.
Most impressive to Monticello coach Courtney Hoffman is how the players developed their talent.
"Credit the parents for getting them into it young," she said. "We still don't have a junior high program. Without summer softball, we wouldn't have anything."
Whether Watrous has struck out four batters in a row or whether teammates committed errors on back-to-back ground balls — both of which happened against the Bombers — the pitcher's positive demeanor is unchanged.
"Errors happen," she said. "That's when you've got to buckle down. What's more important is how you react after bad things happen. You have to focus and stay calm."
The attitude is one that Hoffman expects from a senior leader.
"There are young girls on defense. They're talented, but they will make some mistakes," she said. "Jaimey knows she has to be the one to step up and carry the team."
Her effectiveness is enhanced by the prowess with her pitches. Watrous started off 25 of the 31 Bombers she faced with a strike. In her six-hitter, she struck out eight and walked one. For the season, she has issued 10 walks in 108 innings.
"We've worked on hitting spots," Hoffman said.
The Sages' hitting was also good. Sarah Foran had three of the team's nine hits and drove in three runs. Emily Janis had two hits and an RBI. Foran, the third hitter in the order, is one of the area RBI leaders.
"She didn't start out the year hitting third," Hoffman said, "but she forced me to put her there. She gets timely hits."
Foran's first-inning single drove in leadoff batter Samantha Valentine with the only run Watrous (14-4) would need.
During the past 12 years, 24 area schools have had athletes who were primarily pitchers chosen for the All-Area softball first or second teams. A look at the schools that produced the most quality pitchers since 2000:
SCHOOL FIRST SECOND TOTAL
St. Joseph-Ogden 9 2 11
Monticello 7 3 10
Paxton-Buckley-Loda 1 5 6
Blue Ridge 4 1 5
Prairie Central 1 4 5
Westville 5 0 5
Bismarck-Henning 3 1 4
Hoopeston Area 2 2 4
Rantoul 3 1 4
Schlarman 3 1 4