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Peska Perfect: Shepherd junior tosses perfect game, leads Jays to D3 quarterfinal victory WITH GALLERY

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UNIVERSITY CENTER Pucker up for some Peska perfection.

On Tuesday afternoon from the campus of Saginaw Valley State University Shepherd High School junior Haley Peska tossed the first perfect game of her fine career as she set down 21-straight Millington hitters on the biggest of stages in a Division 3 quarterfinal contest.

With Peska leading the way the offense posted a two-spot in the bottom of the first and a three-spot in the second en route to a 5-0 victory, avenging last year's 1-0 defeat to the Cardinals (31-9) at the same setting and stage.

With the win the Jays (25-18) advance to Friday's Division 3 semifinal round where they will play Monroe St. Mary's at 3 p.m. on the campus of Michigan State University. It's Shepherd first state softball semifinal appearance since 1997.

"After the first two innings I settled in because we had a five-run lead," said Peska, who turned into a sudden media-darling following the perfect game as she was stormed by TV and print media seeking interviews. "About halfway through the game I knew what was going on but nobody said anything. I was so nervous there in the seventh but now that it's over it's the best feeling ever."

Peska's dominance was brought to the forefront in the top of the first inning as she froze the first two hitters she faced with change-ups for strike three. Millington, which was ranked fourth in D3, could never figure out this one pitch and as follows was completely off balance all day as Peska peppered the strike zones with a myriad of changes, rises and drops.

"I guess she saved the best for last, she was great out there," said Shepherd coach Bobb Servoss of Peska, who finished with eight strikeouts. "She was ahead in the count all day and then started picking the corners and throwing that change-up at the knees. You could see it when the first two hitters went back to the dugout that she was on."

After setting the Cardinals, who had outscored their postseason opponents 52-4 leading into Tuesday's game, down in order the Shepherd bats came to life in the bottom of the first.

Ryanna McKenna reached on an error to open the frame and then moved to second on a Kianna Andrews single. After a pop out Ashleigh Bryant singled to load the bases for Hannah Cluley.

Cluley promptly doubled to left center to make it 2-0. The Jays nearly pushed the lead to 4-0 when Carey Smith's grounder was misplayed at first base, but she was called out for being in the base path which sent the runners back to second and third. The play itself was bizarre as Millington's first sacker fielded the ball and threw home to attempt to get the runner there. Yet her throw hit off Smith's facemask as she was coming up the line and deflected towards third base. Initially, Bryant and Cluley scored on the play but both were sent back after Smith was ruled out for being in the field of play.

This call didn't go over too well with the Shepherd faithful initially, but after the Jays added three more runs in the bottom of the second it was forgotten.

Bailey Greening started the second-inning rally with a walk and then moved to second on McKenna's one-out single. Andrews singled in Greening to make it 3-0 before Adri Nelson reached on a bloop single to load the bases for Bryant.

Bryant, who has eight hits in her last 10 at bats, belted a liner to right to plate two more runs and make it 5-0. From this point on out Peska slammed the door shut as she was unhittable.

"I was coming out of a slump too, believe that," asked Bryant, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs Tuesday. "I'm just ecstatic with how we're playing right now. And to throw a perfect game at this point, that's not what anyone was expecting but Haley really wanted it and so did we."

While Peska's perfect game was the talk of the day the fact of the matter is Shepherd's offense is still clicking on all cylinders. In Saturday's regional final win in Clare the Jays beat Beaverton's Faith Howe who came in with over 30 wins and a sub-1.00 ERA. On Tuesday they beat Millington's Gabrielle Sherman who set the single-season school record for wins in 2017. In short the Jays are belting the ball around the yard no matter who's in the circle which sets up an interesting match-up Friday when they square off against top-ranked Monroe St. Mary's.

"We didn't swing at bad pitches and got into a lot of hitter-friendly counts," said Servoss. "When you do that and swing it like we do you're going to put runs on the board. These last five or six games have been a great ride but now we want more. We have a bunch of strong girls who are good at barreling the ball up and now we're going to do it in East Lansing. I couldn't be prouder."

Last Updated: 6/13/2017 7:13:16 PM EST