Apparently Downers Grove North does have more than Elaine Heflin after all.
On a day when the area's most dominant pitcher was hit harder than she had been all season, her bats picked her up. Maddie Wojciak's homer sparked a 7-run fifth inning and No. 3 seed Downers Grove North rallied from a 4-run deficit to beat No. 2 Benet 14-6 in Wednesday's Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional semifinal.
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The 6 runs were the most Heflin (17-4) had allowed all season. Stephanie Abello's 2-run homer in the fourth that staked Benet to a 6-2 lead was the first homer Heflin has allowed on the varsity.
Her teammates had her back.
"This is the first time Heflin needed some support," Trojans coach Mark Magro said, "and we gave it to her. I saw a quote in the paper that said, 'Downers Grove North will rely solely on Heflin's arm', and I said, 'That's your challenge girls.' They took it to heart."
Wojciak's solo homer, with one out in the fifth, started Downers Grove North's rally. But it really heated up with two out.
With two gone and two runners on, five straight Trojans reached base. Hannah Mrazek's bloop single that fell between the shortstop and center fielder scored the tying and go-ahead runs, and Carolyn Nojiri doubled in 2 more runs for a 9-6 lead.
Wojciak later added a 2-run double and Kelsey Gockman a solo homer in the seventh to pad the Trojans' lead.
It is Downers Grove North's first sectional win since 1979, and it puts the Trojans (26-8) into a Saturday sectional final against cross-town rival Downers Grove South.
"We all knew we had to come back for Heflin," Wojciak said. "She's been pitching great for us all year."
Maeve McGuire's run-scoring single in the first, Ali Michalik's RBI double in the second and Abbie Gerth's 2-run single in the third put Benet (22-9) ahead 4-0. The Redwings made Heflin work, drawing 4 walks the first three innings with all of them scoring.
Abello's homer to center in the fourth -- her 12th of the year -- had the Redwings ahead 6-2. From there Downers Grove North scored 12 unanswered runs.
"It was two different games," Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. "We won the four-inning game, but they won the three-inning game and scored a lot more runs doing it."
Benet's undoing was its defense behind freshman pitcher Megan Stoppelman. The Redwings committed 5 errors, all of them coming from the fourth inning on.
"We had chances if we shut it down. We just didn't shut it down," Schilf said. "If we make the defensive plays maybe it's a different story."
Nojiri was 3-for-4 for Downers Grove North. Benet Georgia-bound senior McGuire had 2 hits with 2 runs scored and also threw out a runner from behind the plate in her final high school game, and Abello also had 2 hits.
Suffering from heat sickness, Heflin had to call timeout at one point earlier in the game so Magro could make a mound visit to get her rehydrated.
With the lead she seemed rejuvenated, and she retired 11 of 13 batters after Abello's homer. Heflin struck out nine, clocked at 64 in the final inning.
"I started to feel better later in the game. The heat just got to me," said Heflin, committed to UIC. "My teammates knew that I didn't have my best stuff, wasn't feeling well but they picked me up."
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