A flurry of games is usually the norm for St. Joseph-Ogden softball.
But usually, at this juncture in the calendar, the Spartans are setting their sights on a deep postseason run.
The vision of adding more hardware to the school’s trophy case is still in effect this season. It’ll just have to wait a bit longer. The Spartans opened the 2021 season on April 14 with a 14-7 home win against Centennial and have played 12 subsequent games since then heading into Wednesday’s nonconference game at Maroa-Forsyth.
The Spartans have compiled a 9-4 record thus far, but still have nearly a month left in their regular season.
Here’s a breakdown of what SJO has accomplished so far on the diamond and what’s up next for coach Larry Sparks’ program:
SJO 18, St. Thomas More 1 (May 4)
The Spartans won this road Illini Prairie Conference game in four innings, taking a 7-0 lead after two innings and plating eight more runs in the third to turn the game into a rout.
Sophomore Maggie Ward went 2 for 3 with four RBI to pace the offense, while junior Kelsey Martlage was also instrumental by going 2 for 3 with three RBI and three runs scored. Sophomore Kat Short and senior Kaylee Ward each contributed with a hit, two RBI and two runs scored.
This was more than enough offense for winning pitcher Alyssa Acton. The sophomore threw 3 1/3 innings, recording seven strikeouts and only allowing two hits.
SJO 15, St. Thomas More 0 (May 3)
The Spartans used a 10-run second inning to take an insurmountable 13-0 lead and cruise to the four-win home victory against the Sabers in Illini Prairie action.
Senior Sophia Martlage shined in the batter’s box and the pitcher’s circle, going 2 for 2 with three RBI and throwing one-hit ball through 3 2/3 innings while striking out two.
Kaylee Ward was also superb, going 3 for 3 with four RBI, and Kelsey Martlage was 2 for 2 with three runs scored and an RBI. Sophomore Shayne Immke also chipped in significantly with two hits, two RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases.
SJO 12, Monticello 3 (May 1)
The Spartans never trailed en route to their first Illini Prairie win of the spring, ending a two-game losing streak in the process.
SJO took a 3-0 lead before the host Sages came up to bat, and added to their lead with three runs in the third before scoring two runs apiece in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
The Spartans collected 15 hits during the road win, with Immke having a standout day at the plate. The sophomore went 3 for 4 with two home runs, a triple and six RBI.
Kaylee Ward (2 for 4, two RBI) also hit a home run, while Acton (2 for 3, RBI) and sophomore Peyton Jones (2 for 4, RBI) both finished with multi-hit games.
Acton tossed five innings to record the win, allowing five hits and no earned runs to go along with four strikeouts. Sophia Martlage threw two innings of relief to close out the win, allowing two hits and one run while striking out one.
Olympia 6, SJO 3 (April 30)
Both Illini Prairie teams managed seven hits, but SJO never led in a home loss that extended their losing skid to two straight games.
Olympia led 1-0 after the top of the first, but an RBI single from Acton tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the first.
Olympia then took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the top of the third, but SJO once again answered back with two runs in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 3. Acton was the key catalyst for SJO with a two-run single to score Jones and courtesy runner Addison Frick, a freshman.
Olympia didn’t wait long, though, to regain the lead by plating two runs in the top of the fourth to go ahead 5-3 and SJO could not answer during the final four innings.
Acton was the only SJO player to finish with multiple hits as she went 2 for 3 with the aforementioned three RBI. Kelsey Martlage added a double and scored a run while drawing a walk in her four plate appearances.
Maggie Ward sustained the loss in the circle for SJO, throwing 6 1/3 innings. She gave up all six runs, but only three were earned as SJO committed two errors. She walked one and struck out one.
Mahomet-Seymour 13, SJO 3 (April 29)
The visiting Spartans sustained a tough nonconference loss, falling to the Bulldogs in five innings.
M-S jumped on SJO early, taking a 6-0 lead after the first inning. The Spartans tried to chip away at their sizable deficit, plating two runs in the second and another in the third, but M-S still led 10-3 after three innings before closing out the game with three more runs in the fifth.
Freshman Addy Martinie hit a two-run home run to highlight SJO’s offense, which compiled four hits, and senior Audrey Short added two stolen bases.
Sophia Martlage was tagged with the loss after giving up nine hits and eight runs in two innings. Maggie Ward threw 2 2/3 innings of relief, yielding five runs on six hits.
SJO 15, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 3 (April 27)
Jones, Immke and Kaylee Ward all came up with timely hits to power the Spartans to a six-inning nonconference road win.
Ward had perhaps the biggest hit of all, a third-inning grand slam, to stake SJO to a 9-3 lead.
It was one of three home runs hit on the afternoon, with Immke and Acton each hitting a home run.
Jones went 4 for 4 with three RBI, three stolen bases and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot to spark SJO, while Immke was also 4 for 4 with two RBI.
Ward was 2 for 4 with her four RBI coming on one swing, while Acton (2 for 4, two RBI) and Martinie (2 for 4, RBI) also had multi-hit games as SJO compiled 19 hits in the win.
Sophia Martlage got the win, throwing three innings and giving up three runs on five hits. Maggie Ward threw three innings of scoreless relief, scattering three hits and striking out three.
SJO 5, Fisher 3 (April 26)
The Spartans held on for a nonconference road win against the Bunnies, who trimmed SJO’s five-run lead down to two in their final at-bat.
Five Spartans had two hits in the win as SJO led 5-0 after five innings thanks to a two-run first and a three-run fifth.
Junior Kennedy Hudson led the way by going 2 for 3 with two RBI, with Kelsey Martlage also driving in a run and going 2 for 3.
Immke (2 for 2), Audrey Short (2 for 4) and Jones (2 for 4) were also key in the win as Maggie Ward threw a complete game.
The sophomore pitched all seven innings, giving up nine hits and striking out six while not issuing a walk.
SJO 10, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond 4 (April 24)
The visiting Spartans managed to avoid a doubleheader sweep with this win in the second game.
SJO scored seven runs in the top of the third to take a convincing 7-1 lead as ALAH didn’t threaten the rest of the way.
Hudson (3 for 4, two RBI), Jones (3 for 4, RBI) and Sophia Martlage (3 for 4, RBI) all enjoyed productive games at the plate. Frick also contributed by going 2 for 4 with three RBI and lacing a triple.
Acton recorded the win, throwing five innings and giving up four runs on seven hits. She struck out three and walked one.
Sophia Martlage threw two scoreless innings of relief, not allowing a hit or a walk and striking out two.
Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond 2, SJO 1 (April 24)
The visiting Spartans couldn’t rally for a win during the first game of a nonconference doubleheader against the Knights.
ALAH led 2-0 after four innings before Sophia Martlage walked to lead off the top of the fifth and came around to score on a one-out double from Jones to cut SJO’s deficit to 2-1. It was one of three hits in the game for Jones, with Hudson managing the only other hit for SJO as ALAH starter Makenzie Brown struck out 16.
Sophia Martlage had a strong outing, holding ALAH to only six hits and one earned run in six innings of work. She struck out two and did not allow a walk.
SJO 1, Tri-Valley 0 (April 21)
A dazzling pitching performance by Sophia Martlage, strong defense and heady base running from Frick allowed SJO to enjoy a close nonconference home win.
The senior threw a shutout, only allowing four hits. She didn’t record a strikeout and issued one walk, but her defense made enough plays behind Martlage to chip in.
Jones went 2 for 3 with a double and a stolen base as SJO scored its lone run in the bottom of the third.
With two outs in the inning, Frick reached on a bunt single before she advanced to second on a Tri-Valley error and stole third. Her steal allowed her to come home on another Tri-Valley error and give Martlage all the offensive support she would need.
Herscher 13, SJO 3 (April 17)
SJO trailed 8-0 after four innings and couldn’t recover in a nonconference road loss, the Spartans’ first defeat of the season.
Hudson hit a solo home run for SJO, which also saw Acton go 2 for 3 with and RBI and Jones steal four bases, but that was about the extent of the offensive highlights.
Acton took the loss, allowing seven runs (four earned) in three innings fo work as she struck out one and allowed two walks.
SJO 15, Villa Grove 4 (April 16)
Holding on to a 5-2 lead after five innings, the visiting Spartans put together a six-run sixth inning and then tacked on four more in the seventh to earn the nonconference win.
SJO relied on a host of contributors, but Kelsey Martlage was up there after she went 3 for 5 with five RBI and three stolen bases. Martinie hit a home run and finished 2 for 3 with three RBI, while Acton (3 for 4, three RBI), Jones (3 for 4, three runs scored, three stolen bases), Kaylee Ward (1 for 4, RBI, three stolen bases), Audrey Short (2 for 2, four runs scored, three stolen bases) and Immke (2 for 4, RBI, two stolen bases) also created run-scoring opportunities for SJO.
Maggie Ward threw six innings to deliver the win, giving up four runs on seven hits to go along with three walks and one strikeout.
SJO 14, Centennial 7 (April 14)
Playing the program’s first game in almost two years after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season, SJO opened the 2021 season with a superb offensive performance.
Trailing 4-2 after two innings, the host Spartans scored five runs in the third and three more in the fourth to go ahead 10-4. Centennial chipped away at its deficit with three runs in the sixth before SJO tacked on four more in the bottom half of that inning.
Acton and Kaylee Ward each hit home runs for SJO, with Ward going 2 for 4 with six RBI. Acton added two hits, two RBI and two runs scored to go along with two walks in her four plate appearances.
Audrey Short (2 for 4, RBI), Immke (2 for 3, three runs scored, RBI, three stolen bases) and Jones (1 for 4, two runs scored, three stolen bases) all chipped in.
Maggie Ward picked up the win in relief, throwing five innings and only allowing three runs (one earned) one four hits. She struck out three and walked two.
A quality nonconference test awaits SJO at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday when the Spartans travel to take on Maroa-Forsyth.
SJO will stay busy — and stay on the road — after Wednesday’s trip to Forsyth. The Spartans are set to resume Illini Prairie play at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at Rantoul before playing at 4:30 p.m. on Friday at Danville in a nonconference game.
Two nonconference games are on tap this Saturday at home, with Salt Fork and Meridian coming to St. Joseph for a triangular that is slated to start at 10 a.m.