Harrumpf! Late Rockridge rally ends Panthers' state title hopes
Rockridge's Amelia Thomas scores the winning run in Friday's State Semifinal. (Doug Daniels Photo)
By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com
June 1, 2018
(East Peoria, Ill.) - The Lady Panthers had a 3-2 lead on Rockridge entering the bottom of the seventh inning of Friday's State Semifinal softball game, but a pair of hit batters, an intentional walk, and a base hit that plated the tying and winning runs knocked Pinckneyville into the Third Place game and sent the Rockets into Saturday's championship with a 4-3 win.
"They're a really good hitting team," said PCHS head coach Alan Engelhardt. "They've scored a whole bunch of runs, they ten-runned several people in the postseason. I thought (Mariah Clark) threw the ball well for us, gave us every chance in the world to win. That was on me walking their leadoff there at the end, but I thought that gave us the best chance to win, we didn't want her to beat us. It didn't work out."
Rockridge took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when leadoff hitter Amelia Thomas doubled and scored on an error. The Lady Panthers got that unearned run back with one of their own in the third when Lynlee Lindner reached on an error and was driven in by Daisy Dudek's single.
Kylee Kling hit a deep two-run homer to give PCHS a 3-1 lead in the sixth, but Rockridge chipped away a run in the bottom of the inning with a homer of their own, a solo shot by Hailee Dehner.
"Kylee's been swinging it really, really well," said Engelhardt. "She hit that ball a long, long way."
Then all at once the trouble started. The Rockets took advantage in the seventh when Clark hit the first batter, number eight hitter Grace Irwin. Clark got a pop-up to her catcher Josie Gleason moments later, then head coach Alan Engelhardt elected to intentionally pass Thomas, who was 3-for-3 with a triple and two doubles heading into that plate appearance.
Clark then hit the next batter, Grace Preston, loading the sacks for Kadey Garrett to single to right field for the Rockridge victory.
"(Thomas is) an elite hitter, she's really, really good," Engelhardt said. "We'd talked about we weren't going to let her beat us in that situation. It didn't work out. That's the way the ball bounces sometimes. I thought we competed really, really hard today. It just didn't go our way in the end."
"We pitch in, so when you pitch in, sometimes you hit people. We were trying to induce a pop-up, they probably leaned in a little bit, but that's part of it too."
Dudek (1-3, RBI, BB), Gleason (1-3), Kling (1-2, R, 2 RBI, HR, BB) and Taylor Witges (1-3, 2B) had Pinckneyville's four hits against Rockridge's hurler, Preston. Several other hard-hit balls were tracked down for tough outs by the Rockets' defense.
"Defensively they were really, really good in the field," said Engelhardt. "That's why they're here. That's why (Thomas) is going to Loyola, because she can play. I thought they made a couple plays, and in that case, you tip your cap. They came up with the big hit with the big hit at the end."
"A couple breaks and the game goes the other way. Last year, we our dauber down a little bit and didn't compete the way we're capable of. That's all you can ask, we competed the way we're capable of (today)."
Clark surrendered three earned runs on six hits and struck out four, taking just her second loss of the season in the pitching circle.
Photos by Doug Daniels / Pinckneyville Sports.com
PCHS's Kylee Kling hits a two-run homer. (Doug Daniels Photo)
PCHS's Megan Mayo catches a foul pop-up. (Doug Daniels Photo)