Melanie Early and Lisle would have loved a mulligan.
It clearly was not meant to be Monday in DeKalb.
The Lions were denied a return trip to the state softball tournament, beaten 8-2 by Sherrard in a Class 2A supersectional at Northern Illinois University.
Nothing seemed to break Lisle's way. How tough a day was it? Of Early's 4 strikeouts, Sherrard twice reached base on a wild pitch and an errant throw to first.
"It seemed like fate was on their side today," Early said. "They had a lot of great hits and were hitting it everywhere we weren't."
Lisle (30-4) came in riding a 20-game winning streak since a 9-4 loss to Seneca April 16. This was by far the hardest Early (22-3) was hit since then.
Sherrard (30-5) grinded away tough at-bat after tough at-bat, starting with Alex Ward's leadoff walk on a full count to start the game.
With two outs, Megan Kissner drilled a 1-2 offering from Early for a line-drive 2-run homer to left-center, and Lisle was in an early 2-0 hole.
Next inning, the Tigers did it again with two out. This time Ward hit a bullet RBI single on another 1-2 pitch for a 3-0 lead. Sherrard didn't let up, tacking on a pair of runs in the third and fourth.
"You have to give them credit -- from top to bottom, they hit the stuffing out of the ball," Lisle coach Jen Pomatto said. "They just never stopped hitting. I can't tell you the last time Melanie's given up 12 hits and 5 earned runs."
Sherrard, which beat defending Class 4A champion Moline in its season opener, advanced to state for the first time in 10 years.
Kissner never envisioned doing it in this dominant a fashion.
"I definitely thought it was going to be a closer game," said Kissner, one of a group of seniors who lost 1-run games in supersectionals in 2010 and in a sectional final last year. "We just didn't let them have it."
Early admitted the Lions were caught in an unfamiliar spot they weren't quite ready for.
"They were definitely a good hitting team, the best we've seen," Early said. "I just don't think our defense was ready for that. We weren't used to that many hard-hit balls."
Things piled on as the game progressed. Lisle committed 4 errors, and stranded Shelby Kretman and Abby Tarasewicz at second and third in the third inning after they singled for Lisle's first baserunners. Another runner was doubled off on a line-drive after walking in the fifth.
The Lions only had four balls, including Kretman's single, leave the infield until the seventh. A normally fundamentally sound team was very un-Lisle like.
"They really got us out of our groove," Pomatto said. "Sherrard was definitely the better team today. I'd love to have another chance at them."
Early went out with a bang, though. After Mackenzie Buchelt walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Early homered in her final high school at bat to get Lisle on the board.
"I figured it would be my last at-bat," Early said. "It's hard to come back from 8 runs down in the seventh inning, but I wasn't ready to give up. I'll never forget that homer."
It's an earlier finish than wished for -- but Early, Buchelt and the rest of the Lisle seniors leave quite a legacy. A group that went to state as eighth-graders was part of 108 high school wins, four sectional championships and a state tournament appearance.
"I really wanted a win today for them, because they're a good group of kids," Pomatto said. "But our younger girls will learn from this. We'll come back and we'll rebuild, and we'll just have to start over again."