Jeff Tylka saw red in the eyes of his catcher Amber Mysliwiec.
Specifically, Antioch's softball coach saw red in Mysliwiec's left eye, below it and all around her left check. The left side of her face, after a fourth-inning collision with Marengo's Larissa Pfeiffer, was swelling rapidly. Shades of red were turning black and blue.
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Mysliwiec got a glimpse of her suddenly puffy face too.
"As soon as I walked to the mound," Tylka said, "she comes walking and sees her reflection in my (sun) glasses. She's like, 'That's awesome.' ... That's just how she is."
Mysliwiec nearly had her face broken by Pfeiffer's helmet. All that mattered to the spunky Sequoit, however, was that her heart was broken.
Marengo ended Antioch's season with a 3-2 win in Thursday's Class 3A sectional semifinal at Grayslake Central.
"The loss hurts much worse," said Mysliwiec, reluctantly applying ice on her wounded face, only after family and friends insisted. "I didn't really care about my eye. It was all about this game. This game meant a lot."
It meant a lot, too, to Marengo, which avenged a regular-season loss and sectional-final defeat last year to the eventual Class 3A third-place finisher.
Marengo (29-9), which plays Grayslake North (22-10) in Saturday's 11 a.m. sectional final, got a huge 2-run homer from No.-9 hitter Megan Semro in the third and took a 3-1 lead into the seventh.
Indians lefty Chloe Montgomery retired the first batter she faced, but when leadoff-hitter Jess Liszka's groundball was booted, Antioch had hope.
Katie Keefe flied out to the fence in left field for the second out, and then Montgomery walked Northwestern-recruit Olivia Duehr.
Up stepped Mysliwiec, who had singled her first three trips, driving in the game's first run in the first inning.
On Montgomery's sixth pitch, Mysliwiec slammed a ball that shorthopped the fence in left. Liszka scored and Duehr held at third.
"Their catcher, we didn't have an answer for her," Marengo coach Dwain Nance said. "When she got up in that last inning, we threw her the book, and she hit it."
Montgomery got the final out on a foul fly out to right.
Antioch had only 3 hits, not counting Mysliwiec's four. The Sequoits stranded nine runners, including seven in scoring position. They wasted Sage Keyes' second-inning double that slammed high off the fence in right-center.
"The other girls hit her (hard outs against Montgomery), but some of our girls kept swinging at the rise," said Mysliwiec, who also threw out a runner trying to steal. "That's her killer pitch."
The killer at-bat for Antioch?
It had to be Semro's rocket home run in the third that erased a 1-0 Marengo deficit.
When Antioch faced Marengo during the regular season, Semro batted cleanup. But Nance moved the sophomore transfer from Rockford Lutheran to the bottom of his order because she had been slumping.
After Taylor Carlson led off with a bunt single, Semro slugged a 3-2 pitch from Duehr over the fence in left-center.
"She hit a bomb," Nance said, "against a great pitcher."
"That was exciting," Semro said. "When I was down in the count, I was thinking, 'If I keep fouling (pitches) off, she's going to give me something that I can just crush.' She ended up giving it to me, and I just took advantage of that."
The Indians were opportunistic again in the fourth. Pfeiffer sliced a double down the right-field line with one out, and Alysa Grude then singled to the same location. Pfeiffer slid home safely, colliding with Mysliwiec.
While Pfeiffer was shaken up and needed to be attended to at home plate, Mysliwiec bounced back up on her cleats and shook off her pain.
"I'm definitely pleased with their effort," Tylka said of his players. "I've never questioned their effort all year."