Colchester - East Lyme High School's baseball and softball teams have been engaging in a series of harmless pranks with each other this season, with softball's Erica Hill apparently smack in the middle.
So it was that earlier in the week Hill, the Vikings' pitcher, showed up at practice to find a picture of herself displayed next to a picture of former U.S. gold medal-winning pitcher Jennie Finch with a phrase under each.
Next to Finch's picture: "Look like this." Next to Hill's, an unflattering snapshot from the eighth grade: "Not like this."
"It was mean," Hill said with a laugh.
On Wednesday, Hill provided the perfect revenge. Well, almost perfect.
She pitched a two-hit shutout in East Lyme's 8-0 victory over Bacon Academy in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division, coming two outs from a perfect game before issuing a walk on a 3-2 pitch to Kristen Delzell in the seventh.
Hill got the second out before giving up a line single to center by Megan Marvin to ruin the no-hitter.
East Lyme, however, remained undefeated at 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the Large Division.
"I didn't even know I had a perfect game until they told me after it was over," said Hill, a junior who is 4-0. "I kind of have tunnel vision to the catcher's glove, like, I don't know what's going on. ... I just went out and did my job.
"My rise ball was working good, so I got a lot of girls out on that ... and just an outside fastball."
Hill struck out nine. She induced 10 fly ball outs, only two ground balls, and got errorless defense.
East Lyme scored on an RBI single by Samantha Horner in the first inning and put up three more runs in the third. Madison Horner led off the third with a triple to right field and freshman Kaylie Crosby executed a textbook squeeze bunt on which Horner slid safely home.
Madison Horner was 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored, Crosby scored three times and Morgan Lloyd drove in a pair of runs. Bacon made four errors, two in a four-run seventh.
East Lyme was 11-10 last year, with Hill as the No. 2 pitcher behind Anna Salvatore.
Since, Hill has lifted weights and generally honed her skills by working with pitching coach Christy Dukehart, the former Ledyard great.
"I was excited to step up and do all I could," Hill said.
"Last year she was throwing, now she's pitching," East Lyme coach Judy Deeb said. "She's hitting her locations. The ball is moving. ... I was disappointed. She could have gotten her perfect game instead of that ball four."
Hill said the team, which plays Hartford Sport Sciences on Saturday before meeting ECC Large rival Waterford on Monday in a first-place matchup, has "come together" on the field and off.
"I can just go pitch and know they have my back out there," she said.
The Vikings did make several nice plays in preserving the potential perfect game. Crosby made a catch on a fly ball over her head in the first inning, getting her feet tangled, but setting the tone for the defense.
East Lyme has outscored its opponents 62-8, including a 6-1 season-opening victory over Greenwich.
"I'm always nervous before each game no matter who we play," Deeb said. "So far this season, every first inning, we've scored a run, so we've been ahead. That settles the nerves."