St. Charles East received a stellar start from pitcher Haley Beno and used a three-run sixth inning rally to defeat Conant 4-1 and capture the 4A regional title Saturday at Glenbard West.
"Winning this regional title means a lot to us," said St. Charles East coach Kelly Horan. "I couldn't be prouder of how my kids have handled the pressure and they are just a great group of individuals to represent the school and to win this regional, I think they deserve it."
The Saints will play Bartlett Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at St. Charles East in the sectional semifinals.
Beno and Conant starting pitcher Kim Zaucha both turned in strong performances. Zaucha had scattered seven hits and allowed just one run through five innings to the potent Saints lineup.
That's when, with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Kate Peterburs lined a double to left center to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Sarah Collalti laced a double to just about the same spot, and pinch-runner Mackenzie Meadows scored to give the Saints a 2-1 lead.
"I'm a very confident hitter," said Collalti. "I've been hitting a softball since I was 4. I just knew once I got my first pitch strike that I was going to hit in that winning run and my teammates trust me and I trust myself."
"She's a cool, calm and collected individual," said Horan of Collalti. "She never looks stressed in the batter's box and that was a nice little gaper and a great jump off the base by Mackenzie Meadows."
A single by Olivia Cheatham and a walk to Shelby Holtz loaded the bases for leadoff hitter Lexi Perez. Perez slapped a single to left that scored Collalti, followed by Tess Hupe hitting a grounder to shortstop that a hustling Cheatham beat the throw home to make it 4-1 Saints.
"It was really exciting," said Cheatham. "I was running really hard just hoping I would make it."
"It's team intelligence really," said Horan of her team's base running. "We do work really hard on seeing the ball off the bat and if it's down with bases loaded you have to read it and go."
The three-run lead was more than enough for Beno (18-3) who gave up just four hits and during one stretch retired 13 out of 14 batters to keep the Saints in the game.
"I was trying to stay focused, I was confident we would start hitting and we did,' said Beno.
The only mistake Beno made all day was in the first inning when Conant catcher Miranda Calvin hit a solo home run to left field to give the Cougars the early 1-0 lead.
"I like how she rebounded," said Horan of her pitcher. "She came back and struck out the hitter after that. Conant is a quality team and even when they hit the ball hard, she really responded. She was a champion today, there is no doubt."
"Haley pitched an awesome game," said Saints left fielder Katie Kolb. "Without her, none of this would happen."
"Haley pitched amazing, she's been doing great all season, I'm happy to be able to play behind her," said Collalti.