Richter, Drain bring the pain as PR stops Grant
Mighty Maddie Drain delivered pain. Her Prairie Ridge softball teammate Marissa Richter provided a different kind of hurt an earlier inning.
Leading off the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday's Class 4A Grant regional semifinal, the 6-foot-2 Drain smacked a line drive that caught Grant pitcher Caitlyn Moran flush on the right thigh. The softball was sure to leave a mark of black-and-blue variety.
For Moran, her pain wasn't season-ending. When approached by the home-plate umpire to see if she was OK, the wounded ace, determined to keep playing, gave him a thumbs-up.
In the first inning, Richter had touched Moran for a 3-run homer, propelling regional top seed Prairie Ridge to a 4-0 over No. 4 Grant in Fox Lake.
Thumbs down for Grant.
The Bulldogs won the North Suburban Conference championship six days earlier but had the unfortunate task of opening the state tournament against a Prairie Ridge squad that ended the regular season by winning 15 of its last 16 games.
The Richter home run hurt Moran worse than Drain's line drive off her leg. That was a season ender.
"I'll take a line drive and have them at first base," Moran said, "rather than a home run."
While Grant ended its season at 20-9, Prairie Ridge (26-3) advanced to Friday's 4:30 p.m. regional final against the winner of today's game between No. 2 McHenry and No. 3 Crystal Lake Central at Grant.
"That whole team kept me on my toes," Moran said of Prairie Ridge after yielding 8 hits and 1 walk, while striking out eight.
Grant's batters kept swinging and missing against hard-throwing Kirsten Stevens of Prairie Ridge. The lefty struck out 13 and scattered only 3 hits — singles to Moran, Kayla Uhwat and Jane Williams.
"I thought our team did an excellent job offensively and defensively," said Stevens, the Wolves' three-year varsity ace who will pitch Division I softball for Mercer University in Georgia. "We couldn't have won it without Richter. She had an excellent hit. I'm so proud of her. Our team's hitting has definitely come together. We had our enthusiasm up the whole time, and I think we'll keep this up our next game, too."
Richter's fifth home run of the season came with one out and Claire Bowman and Kate Didier (2-for-2) aboard. Richter elevated a 1-2 pitch the opposite way, hitting Moran's offering over the fence in the right field.
"I was just trying to hit it to the right side so (the runners) could score easier," said Richter, who along with Stevens are the Wolves' only seniors. "I just swung hard and it went in the wind."
Richter's blast was all Stevens needed. She retired Grant in order in each of the first three innings, striking out five.
Emily Doomis' RBI single scored Alyssa Doomis in the sixth for Prairie Ridge's other run. All of Stevens' strikeouts were swinging.
"Hats off to (coach) Mike Buck and Prairie Ridge," Grant coach Mike Dolezal said. "Stevens pitched a great game. She held our hitters at bay. We played a good game. We made one mistake."
Grant will graduate seniors Uhwat, Williams, Taylor Rossi, Jenny Gibbs, Brooke Buckley and Megan Funk. Uhwat (catcher), Williams (center field) and Rossi (right field) were starters.
"These girls are such fighters," Dolezal. "They're incredible, collectively. To see how much better they got throughout the year and how hard they worked, it's kind of sad to see it end today."
"I thought they were a good team," Richter said of Grant. "I was surprised that they were seeded fourth because they have good pitching, good fielding, good hitting. They're a strong team, and I'm just glad we could come out on top."
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