EAST PEORIA -- Danielle Chitkowski doesn't get annoyed or mad when kid sister Stephanie takes the ball from her in relief. By now she knows the routine.
She does seem to swing an angry bat, though.
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A half-inning after giving way to Stephanie on the mound, Danielle Chitkowski homered to break a tie with Mattoon, opening the floodgates to an 11-1 Glenbard South win in six innings in Friday's Class 3A state semifinal at EastSide Centre.
Chitkowski, leading off the bottom of the third, unloaded on the first pitch for her seventh homer -- second in as many games -- and 2-1 lead. The Raiders never looked back.
"I was ticked at myself, as always," Chitkowski said. "She's my sister, and I know she can do it but still -- I have not been pitching well. I try to pick my team up and do my best in other ways. Hitting is one of them."
Chitkowski and Glenbard South (36-4) seemed to celebrate this win with extra elation, with good reason.
Three of the last four years the Raiders advanced to the state semifinal, only to lose each time. The first of those losses, in 2008, came to Mattoon. Finally busting through, Glenbard South will play defending 3A champion Marengo in today's noon championship game. The Raiders beat Marengo 10-3 in April.
"No words can describe how good this feels," said Raiders junior Jane Trzaska, who also homered. "We've had this curse following us that we couldn't get through this game. But we did it."
Glenbard South didn't leave this one to chance, pounding out 13 hits off Mattoon starter Kacey Starwalt. Every Raider had at least one hit.
Hannah Taylor's 2-run single followed Chitkowski's solo homer to make it 4-1 in the third. In the fourth Trzaska lined a two-run homer for a 6-1 lead, and the Raiders batted around in a 5-run sixth to finish it. Olivia Ramirez doubled in a pair of runs and Lisa Bartha singled in the 11th.
"They came out swinging," Raiders coach Julie Fonda said. "This group is pumped, this group is poised, this group understands what is expected of them down here. It's not new. It's a huge thing to have that experience in your back pocket."
That Danielle Chitkowski redeemed any struggles on the mound with her bat is nothing new. She tripled in 3 runs in the sectional final. On Monday, after spotting Elmwood Park a 3-0 lead, Chitkowski's 2-run homer ignited a Glenbard South rally.
"I've been saying it all year -- this kid is relentless," Fonda said of Chitkowski, "and she is a gamer. If she gives up runs on the mound you're going to be sure that Dani Chitkowski is going to get it back."
Stephanie Chitkowski, once again, was nails in relief. Taking over for Danielle after a pair of one-out walks in the third, the Raiders junior threw 3 innings of scoreless relief for her 17th win, striking out four. Fonda said the gameplan was predetermined, probably more due to her faith in Stephanie.
"I did have a quick hook with Dani today because all I wanted was one time through the batting order. She knew that ahead of time," Fonda said. "One time, and then I wanted to go to Stephanie. In a game like this you don't want any what-ifs."
Kaitlyn Bath's homer, her ninth of the year, in the second accounted for the only run for Mattoon (35-4).
Although her team run-ruled Marengo last year and rocked the Indians in April, Fonda isn't overconfident.
"My kids are not cocky," Fonda said. "They're going to play the game that's in front of them. We're going to push forward and continue in attack mode."