Rosary fends off Kaneland's comeback
Kaneland had a seventh-inning rally of epic proportions on Saturday afternoon, but Rosary sophomore right-hander Elayne Young had one final flurry.
The Royals' 7-run lead entering the bottom of the seventh at the Class 3A Rosary softball regional championship game in Aurora was suddenly a most-precarious lead as Hayley Contorno represented the tying run after her two-out double scored Meg Cohrs.
"I told the catcher (Katelyn Groom), 'Keep your mitt down,'" Young said.
Ninth-place Kaneland batter Caroline Heimerdinger was seeking the Knights' eighth hit of the seventh inning, but Young induced a comebacker to preserve the second-seeded Royals' 7-6 victory.
Rosary (13-18) advances to the Rochelle sectional to face Marengo on Wednesday afternoon.
Kaneland, which swept Rosary in a doubleheader last Saturday, had its top-seeded season end at 23-4.
"I told the girls that records don't mean anything in the playoffs," Rosary coach John Kazmerczak said. "They wanted to play Kaneland again. We knew we could hit their pitching."
Rosary made the most of its scoring opportunities over the first six innings as Kaneland repeatedly stranded runners in scoring position.
Young had a run-scoring groundout to begin the scoring in the Royals' second at-bat, and Samantha Phelps' leadoff home run in the fourth doubled the Rosary lead.
"It barely got over the fence," Kaneland right-fielder Sarah Grams said.
Lexi Lovetere had a two-out RBI single for Rosary moments later, but the most significant Rosary moment of the contest arrived in the top of the fifth.
Emma Molenhouse and Cara Smoczynski were aboard after singles; the two trotted home to double the Royals' lead to 6-0 when Lauren Murray hit a towering drive that narrowly fell inside the left-field foul pole.
"I thought it was a foul ball," the St. Charles resident said of her third home run of the spring and second of the postseason. "We did talk about it (the doubleheader loss the previous week). We all brought fire, brought energy."
Rosary added its only unearned run of the game in the sixth, but Kaneland refused to bow out meekly.
After an innocuous groundout to start the seventh inning, seven of the next eight Kaneland batters had base hits.
Grams followed a 3-run blast by sophomore Paige Kuefler with a prodigious drive over the left-center field fence to cut the Royals' lead to 7-5.
"This (could be) the last game I ever play," Grams said. "I didn't want to go down 7-0. We started out flat. We didn't want to go down without a fight."
Cohrs' double was followed by Contorno doing likewise one out later.
But Young had just enough to record the decisive third out.
"The (Kaneland) people who did get hits were higher in the zone," Young said of her approach to Heimerdinger.
The teams combined for 25 hits as Kaneland finished with 13.
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