After the first two softball meetings between Montini and St. Francis this season, Spartans coach Ralph Remus was ready for a slugfest in their third matchup in Class 3A regional championship game Saturday afternoon.
Montini notched a walkoff victory over its conference rival in April, but St. Francis dominated the second game 12-0.
The Spartans had the last laugh Saturday, defeating the host Broncos 10-6 for their third regional title in four years.
"Today, I expected kind of a 7-6 game, something like that, so the extra runs we got were gravy and put us over the top," Ralph Remus said. "I'm not surprised they scored 6 runs on us."
St. Francis jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the third inning and never let up, tacking on insurance runs as the defense quashed Montini's rally attempts. The Spartans were led offensively by second baseman Aly Germanos, who went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a home run, and shortstop Alyssa Fernandez, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and scored 4 runs.
But Ralph Remus said that defense was a focus for his team behind winning pitcher Maggie Remus.
"When you're playing these games now that we're at 43 feet, there's not going to be a lot of strikeouts anymore," he said. "That means the ball's going to be put in play. You have to count on your defense."
That defense was effective in stranding Montini runners in six out of seven innings. In total the Broncos left 10 runners on base, a source of frustration for Montini coach Richie Costante.
"That's kind of been a trait of us, is we always come back," Costante said. "We never give up. We were in every inning and had chances to score more runs than we did and just shot ourselves in the foot a little bit."
Each of the last three innings saw a Montini rally end in a new manner. In the fifth a runner was doubled off of second base on a line drive to right field as she lost her footing in the dirt. In the sixth a screaming line drive hit a runner advancing from first to second. In the final inning a runner was tagged out trying to advance to third base.
Despite the loss Costante's message to his team after the game was positive. All but three of his players, including freshman pitcher Lauren Trojnar, will be returning next season.
"I told them, I hope they learn from everything that happened in the game, not just the loss, but from the plays in the game," he said. "I mean, we had five freshmen that were in the lineup today, so we are young and we've just got to learn. Our softball IQ has to grow."
While Montini looks toward progress next season, St. Francis will move on to the Glenbard South sectional, where the Spartans could eventually face a Raiders team Remus called "our Achilles' heel."