EAST PEORIA — Marist senior right fielder Maggie Gorman had 3 RBI in 76 at-bats heading into Friday’s Class 4A state semifinal against Elk Grove.
The Redhawks’ No. 8 hitter added 2 more at the Eastside Centre.
These two will go down in school history.
They came when Gorman clubbed a two-out, 2-run homer over the left field fence in the top of the fifth inning, which proved to be the difference in Marist’s 2-0 shutout over Elk Grove.
Gorman’s second home run of her three-year varsity career advanced Marist to its first state championship for softball.
The Redhawks (26-11) will face Bartlett (32-8) for the state crown at 5 p.m. today while Elk Grove (31-9) meets Moline (30-11) at 2:30 p.m. for third place.
“That’s the fragileness of this sport,” said Grens coach Ken Grams, a veteran of 32 seasons with 778 wins. “One pitch can do that, and it’s to that young lady’s credit that she was able to do it.”
Gorman, who entered the game hitting .211, surprised herself a bit.
“When I hit them like that, a lot of times they go foul,” she said. “I just liked the pitch and I went with it. She struck me out the first time so I was just looking to make contact. I’m so glad this one wasn’t foul.”
Senior pitcher Dani Goranson (25-8), who played a major role in getting Elk Grove here for the second time in three years, gave up only 5 hits while striking out seven.
“Just one pitch,” said Goranson, who will play at Michigan State next season. “That’s part of the game. She was really off the plate and I threw a screwball that wasn’t the right pitch at the time.
“Overall, it was a delightful season. Coach Grams is the most amazing coach to be around.”
Redhawks coach Denise Bromberek has been around since girls were first admitted to Marist during the 2002-03 school year.
The 10-year softball coach (277-97) knew Gorman’s blast was headed out of the park from the crack of the bat. “I could tell at the point of contact that it was a rocket over the fence,” she said.
Redhawks senior pitcher Kristin Klutcharch (17-11) had a perfect game until Grens pinch hitter Tori Liewergen blooped a single to center with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After Elisa Payne reached on a fielder’s choice, Goranson doubled sharply to left center for runners on second and third with two outs.
But Klutcharch was clutch again, getting the next batter on a grounder to short to end the Grens’ best threat of the game.
“I felt really comfortable and my defense was playing great,” Klutcharch said. “I was starting to get nervous, but my defense made the plays.”
Becca Maher had an infield single in seventh as Klutcharch finished off a 3-hitter with 3 strikeouts.
“I felt as the pace of the game developed, we had some anxiety starting to build,” Grams said. “We weren’t hitting real well and that was making it tougher with every trip to the plate.
“She (Klutcharch) was keeping us off balance. With her style of ‘junk’ pitches, we just didn’t really handle it well.”
Marist had 2 of its 5 hits in the inning Gorman homered.
After two were out, junior catcher Kaitlin Kenny singled to right, setting up Gorman’s homer.
“To her credit, that was big hit on a 3-2 count,” Grams said.
Kenny went 3-for-3 from the No. 7 spot in the order. The only other Redhawk with a hit was No. 3 batter Nicole Babrowski, who bunted safely in the top of the seventh.
The Redhawks have won 11 in a row since sweeping a doubleheader from St. Viator (18-6, 13-2) on May 12.
“I am extremely proud of these girls,” Bromberek said. “They never gave up and it’s all about them now. They put themselves in a position to do this and they are capitalizing.
“We’re the underdogs. And the girls are playing out of their spikes.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.