Columbia's Brianna Weilbacher certainly did everything she could to make sure the Eagles won their first sectional championship since 2002.
Not only did Weilbacher pitch a no-hitter, but she also drove in the lone run of the game with a solo homer in the top of the sixth inning as the Eagles beat the Centralia Orphan Annies 1-0 Saturday in the title game of the Class 3A Centralia Softball Sectional.
"She's a remarkable kid,'' Columbia coach Rhonda Major said of Weilbacher, an Iowa State recruit. "She's a hard-worker, she's a competitor. She's got big things ahead of her at Iowa State, but she's not done taking care of business for the Eagles.''
Weilbacher struck out five and walked four. She walked two batters during a tense bottom of the seventh, but she was able to work around the free passes.
"I know my team has good defense behind me, so I was making my pitches and if I walked a girl, then I walked her and we'd get the next one,'' Weilbacher said.
Weilbacher sent a 2-1 offering from Centralia pitcher Jessica Feig over the left-center fence with two outs in the top of the sixth.
"I was struggling earlier ... I really couldn't find it,'' Weilbacher said of her first two at-bats against Feig that resulted in a ground out to third base and a strike out. "I struck out looking. I was just looking for one to hit, I was just looking to make solid contact.''
Centralia coach Mallory Kauling said the Orphan Annies tried to work the outside corner against Weilbacher on her third trip to the plate.
"We kind of changed things up a little with her,'' Kauling said. "We wanted to keep her honest and go outside. She definitely showed us that she could hit the outside pitch today.
"You tip your hat. She's a good hitter and a good pitcher, and they're a good ballclub.''
It was Weilbacher's metro-east-leading 15th homer of the season.
"She's had great at-bats and obviously that has helped her confidence a little bit,'' Major said of Weilbacher's hitting this season.
The Eagles (34-2) advance to play the Chatham Glenwood Titans (29-7) at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Mattoon Super-Sectional.
The Titans beat Mattoon 2-1 Saturday in the championship game of the Lincoln Sectional.
The Eagles, who have never won a super-sectional in softball, beat Chatham Glenwood 5-2 on May 10 in the Triad Invitational.
The Orphan Annies ended their season at 25-7. They had their season ended in the sectional for the third straight year.
"I told the girls that nobody is going to walk out of this park with their heads hanging low,'' Kauling said. "They're going to walk out of this park with their heads high and proud of how they played today.''
The Eagles had five hits off Feig, who struck out five and walked one.
Rachel Garcia nearly put the Eagles on the scoreboard in the second inning when she hit a deep drive to left field that hit off the top of the fence and bounced back to left fielder Katie Branon instead of going over.
Garcia ended up with a double, but she was stranded at second base.
"I felt bad for her,'' Weilbacher said of Garcia's bad break. "That was awful. It was a good hit. I was hoping it was gone.''
Branon drew a walk to lead off the seventh inning. That brought up the heart of the Orphan Annies' batting order.
"That seventh inning we were exactly where we wanted be with runners on,'' Kauling said.
Sam Cameron lined out to left fielder Claire Foster and Shaelyn Lawson was called out on strikes.
Abbey Holtkamp walked after running up a 3-2 count, but Weilbacher got Lexi Campbell to pop out to second baseman Kalli Farmer to end the game.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Bri,'' Major said. "She did a real good job that last inning of not giving in and taking care of business. I'm real proud of her for the way she performed today.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.