Kaneland rallies for 1st title in 7 years
McKinzie Mangers admitted her at-bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning was not what she hoped to accomplish.
"I was trying to find a gap," the Kaneland senior captain said. "I got under it a little bit."
But Mangers' dink down the left-field line proved to be the biggest hit of the season for the Kaneland softball team as her 2-run double was the key hit in the Knights' 6-run inning in their Class 3A softball regional final against Yorkville on Saturday afternoon at IMSA in Aurora.
Delani Vest picked up her 20th win on the year as the Knights turned back their league rival, 9-5, for the third time this year in earning their first postseason title in seven years.
Kaneland (31-6) advances to the Belvidere North sectional on Wednesday to face Sterling.
Yorkville, which received 2-run singles from Courtney Thomas and Heidi Dockstader in the top of the sixth to take a 5-3 lead, had its season close at 19-17.
Eleven batters came to the plate for Kaneland in its sixth inning.
Sarah Grams' base hit started the uprising, and Vest helped her own cause two batters later with a shot up the middle that closed the Knights' gap to 5-4.
Yorkville starter Rachael Owens recorded back-to-back putouts with the bases loaded and none out, but Mangers' bloop double scored fellow captains Howard and Vest to give Kaneland the lead for good.
Sophomore Lexi Roach, who compromised the Foxes' five-infielder defensive scheme in the bottom of the fifth with a 2-run triple, then added her third RBI on the day with a single to right.
"I looked at the defense," Roach said of her key extra-base hit that split the gap of the Foxes' twin outfielders to score Allyson O'Herron and Lanie Callaghan to complete the Knights' 3-run fifth. "This is the time to hit it (to center). They leave a huge gap out there."
"(The five-infielder look) worked every time but once," Yorkville coach Kathi Dockstader said. "(Roach) just put it where we weren't."
Mangers scored the Knights' fifth run of the sixth inning on an illegal pitch, and Haley Contoro concluded the scoring with an RBI single, the last of the Knights' 13 hits on the afternoon.
Vest, who allowed only 2 hits through the first five innings before surrendering a pair of bases-loaded singles that temporarily gave Yorkville the lead in its sixth inning, retired her final three batters after plunking Sarah Saffold to open the seventh.
Before the late fireworks, the game approximated a classic postseason pitchers' duel in its opening stages.
Saffold touched Vest for a tape-measure solo home run to left-centerfield for the opening run, only to have Kaneland score all of its runs in the last two at-bats.
Callaghan tied the game at 1-1 in its half of the fifth with one-out single up the middle.
But Yorkville did all of its sixth-inning damage to Kaneland with two outs to reverse its 2-run deficit into an equal lead.
"Give Yorkville all the credit in the world," Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. "They didn't quit."
"We felt like we were the underdogs since they beat us twice (in the regular season)," Dockstader said. "(Big innings have) been our weakness all year. We give up a four- or more-run inning."
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