When she went to bat with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning, the last thing on Jenn Claussen's mind was hitting a you-know-what.
"I had no intention of doing that," said the Cougars senior pitcher. "I just didn't want to strike out. I just wanted to get on base."
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But you know what? She cleared the bases.
Claussen's grand slam over the right-center field fence all but sealed the Cougars' 7-0 victory over St. Viator in the semifinal of Lions' own Class 3A regional in Arlington Heights.
The No. 4-seeded Cougars (9-15) advance to Saturday's 10 a.m. championship of today's semifinal between No. 2 St. Edward and No. 3 Regina.
"The key to this win was having fun," said Claussen (4-10), who scattered 5 hits and struck out four. "We came in as the No. 4 seed. It doesn't matter who we play, we are going to be the underdog. We just had that mentality, and it worked out well."
The Cougars' defense worked out well, too. It did not commit an error.
The offense gave Claussen a 1-0 lead in the second inning when freshman first baseman Danielle Comitor doubled to center with two outs driving in junior Kristina Kliver, who had singled to center.
After an infield hit by Izzy Cirone, Lions ace Sam Hogan got out of the inning with a strikeout and the junior finished with six for the game.
"It was a well-played game," said Lions coach John Scotillo. "It seemed like we'd always get a runner on base with two outs. Give them credit. Their shortstop (freshman Dana Meline) made some nice plays. Their whole defense came up strong."
Freshman Rose Ferolo caught the shutout by Claussen, a National Honor Society student who plans to study engineering at Purdue.
"We've got some really good hitters on this team so even when it was 1-0 I wasn't worried because I know we could get more and I have a good defense behind me," Claussen added.
Claussen's third homer of the season capped off a 6-run seventh inning for Vernon Hills.
Comitor led off by reaching second base on an error, went to third on a wild pitch and scored when Cirone scored on an error.
Meline then bunted for a hit and Tori Smith singled to left to load the bases.
Jordyn Comitor reached safely on a fielder's choice which brought home Cirone for a 3-1 lead before Claussen hit her blast.
"That was nice," said Vernon Hills coach Steve Korney. "It sure helped to make her feel a little more comfortable. I felt like we knocked on the door a few times, so it was nice to break it open in the seventh."
Korney said the 1-0 lead was one of the few times his team has gotten the early advantage this season.
"We're usually chasing," he said. "It was nice to give Jenn a little wiggle room early, and then she shut them down. We'd basically been playing catch-up all season so that was nice."
Catcher Gina Mastrodomenico was the Lions' first runner to reach second base (on a wild pitch) in the sixth inning after her one-out infield hit.
Juniors Tess Kaiser and Kristen Hackel each went 2-for-3 for the Lions (8-24).
"Our kids worked hard all season," said Lions coach John Scotillo. "I'm really proud of them. They overcame a lot. Everyone in the program was great -- the coaching staff and the parents were so supportive.
"These kids battled hard. This was a fun game. They (Vernon Hills) made the big plays and got the big hit when they needed it. We just couldn't get that big hit. It was almost a microcosm of our season."