SALINA — It was difficult for Andale-Garden Plain pitcher Sydnee Eck to hide her smile after her last pitch.
The junior right-hander slung the ball low, forcing St. James Academy's Kristin Lock to pop it back up to her at the pitcher's mound.
Eck made the easy out to secure Andale-Garden Plain's third state title in four years with a no-hitter in the 2-0 Class 4A win.
"It's an incredible feeling," Eck said. "Coming out with a state championship, and to do it in that fashion, is a great feeling. I just kept thinking, 'Please don't drop this, please don't drop this.' "
Eck went to work early on the St. James lineup. She struck out two batters in the first two innings and picked up a little help from Andale-Garden Plain left fielder Maci Grimes, who sprinted back to the wall to make the diving catch of Lock's blast.
"That catch was all for the team," Grimes said. "I knew I needed to get back. I just wanted to do what I could to help with the win. We wanted this win so bad."
Eck struck out three straight batters in the third inning and the first two in the fourth.
On the next at-bat, St. James' Lydia Budke connected on an Eck pitch, floating a ball into shallow right field. Erin Tice made a move for the catch, but bounced the ball off her glove for an error.
"We do have a lot of confidence in what Syd throws on the mound," Andale-Garden Plain coach Doris Hein said. "She knew that she hung that one out there. If we give up those once in awhile, we know we can get the next one."
Eck kept Budke at first base by forcing Lock to pop out in the infield to end the inning.
"I know the defense is back there for me working as hard as they can," Eck said. "I can't thank them enough."
With one hit in four innings, Andale-Garden Plain got going in the fifthwith the game's only runs.
Tice led off the inning with a single to right field. Alli Heimermann was hit by a pitch. One batter later, Molly Hein grounded out to the pitcher but moved up Tice and courtesy runner Caitlin Hays. With two outs and a full count, Grimes singled to center field to score two.
The two runs were all the Indians needed. Eck struck out another batter and got two more on grounders in the sixth.
After Eck struck out the leadoff batter in the seventh, Tice redeemed herself in shallow right field with a diving catch to help keep Eck's no-hitter intact.
"That was a great catch to shut them down," Hein said. "It's great to know that we are defensively sound and can come up with the big plays when we need to."
Eck didn't allowr a run in three tournament games.
"The players have confidence in her. I have confidence in her," Hein said. "It's a big relief knowing she's going to keep throwing strikes."
St. James Academy (22-4) 000 000 0 — 0 0 0 Andale-Garden Plain (23-1) 000 020 x — 3 4 1
Paola (22-5) 201 44 — 11 11 1 Girard (24-2) 001 00 — 1 2 2
St. James Academy (21-4) 010 030 1 — 5 8 2 Girard (24-1) 000 301 0 — 4 8 2
Paola (21-5) 000 000 0 — 0 1 2 Andale-Garden Plain (22-1) 002 001 x — 3 8 0