Monica Mueller hasn’t been perfect in three years.
She was pitcher of the year in the American Midwest Conference and the All-Region 5 pitcher of the year in 2004, but she still wasn’t perfect.
Mueller (11-4) reached the pinnacle Tuesday as she led the Columbia College Cougars to their fifth straight conference win, 2-0 against Hannibal-LaGrange.
The senior gave up no hits, no walks, hit no batters and struck out 10 Trojans in the first game of the AMC doubleheader.
“It was really exciting,” Mueller said. “It’s always something special to get that perfect game.”
Although softball tradition says that no one should alert the pitcher of the possibility of a perfect game, one fan shouted it out as the last batter of the game was facing Mueller.
“I tried to keep it in the back of my head because I didn’t want to jinx myself,” Mueller said. “I just had to relax and get the job done.”
Coach Wendy Spratt said Mueller was incredible throughout. The team made changes this week in its approaches to the pitchers and catchers, sparked by a string of losses last week on the Cougars’ spring-break trip to California.
“They (the pitchers and catchers) really executed the game plan and did a nice job,” Spratt said. “Those kinds of changes can be difficult for them to make. Monica did an outstanding job ... a perfect game takes a special pitcher.”
Mueller grew up and played high school softball in Hannibal.
“I was pumped up for this game, really ready to go because of course I wanted to beat my hometown team,” Mueller said.
The Cougars (21-10, 6-0 AMC) had three hits in the first game. Sophomore Ashley Perrigo had a solo home run, and senior first baseman Heather Lang and sophomore second baseman Stephanie Kababie each added a hit.
The second game was tougher for the Cougars. Manufacturing runs was a problem for each team. Going into the seventh inning, they were deadlocked at 1.
Hannibal-LaGrange had the last at-bat, and it had two runners on base after back-to-back errors. The first was a communication error on a pop-up between sophomore left fielder Chris Schoonover and freshman center fielder Lindsey Williams. The other came on a throwing error from Kababie.
Spratt said those kinds of errors are not normal for her team. Following the defensive breakdown, Mueller entered the second game mid-inning for senior Kerri Gapka.
Spratt said Gapka was pitching a great game — she gave up four hits and one run — but the Trojans’ momentum needed to break.
“It’s a little nerve racking to go into such a tight game, but I knew the defense would calm down after they had a break and talked,” Mueller said. “I knew they would get us out of it.”
The pitchers’ duel continued into the tenth inning when the international rule was instigated. This gave each team a runner on second base at the beginning of the inning.
Sophomore Felisha Richards was put on second to pinch run. She was bunted to third and scored the winning run off of sophomore Amanda Hodges’ single.
The Trojans were unable to answer in the bottom of the tenth and lost 2-1.
“I was proud of them for bringing it back together, being tough, being strong,” Spratt said.
The Cougars face conference rival Central Methodist University at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Cougar Softball Field.