Lake Zurich wasn't about to go down without a fight.
Finding themselves down to No. 2 New Trier 3-0 after just 1 inning at Wednesday's Class 4A Rolling Meadows sectional semifinal, the Bears clawed their way back into the game and finally tied things up in the top of the seventh.
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Unfortunately for Lake Zurich, the attempt to extend the season for coach Michaela Towne fell just short as the Trevians plated a run in the bottom of the seventh to win 4-3. New Trier meets Barrington for the sectional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday at Rolling Meadows.
"She's the best," said the Bears' Carlee Parsons of Towne, who is stepping down as LZ's coach. "We wouldn't be where we are today without her."
"Thanks to her," added teammate Maria Schroeder, "we had a great year."
The Bears' comeback started in earnest in the second inning when sophomore catcher Kaylee Grant sparked the team with a long home run over the 200-foot sign in dead center.
"I think that kind of ignited us," said Grant, "but at the same time I knew my team would keep battling back. I'm so proud of them and especially (pitcher) Olivia Schneider. She kept us in the game on the mound and did the job at the plate."
After a rough start, Schneider settled down and kept the Trevian bats at bay while Schroeder's sacrifice fly in the fourth made the score 3-2.
"They're fighters," said Towne of her sixth-seeded Bears, who finished the season 21-10. "We had a little bit of nervous energy in the first inning -- we were skittish, but we settled down and played rock-solid thereafter."
McKenna Larson opened the top of the seventh by reaching first on a error, and she stood at second base with two outs when Schneider came up big.
On a 1-2 count, Schneider lined a long double to the fence in left-center to score Larson and deadlock the game.
"I needed to do that for my teammates," said Schneider. "I didn't want our season to end."
"I think she (New Trier pitcher Allison Quigley) tried to throw a rise, but it didn't rise. At that point it was just do or die."
In the bottom of the inning, New Trier had runners on second and third with two outs when Quigley lined a soft liner to left-center.
Lake Zurich center fielder Vivian Juarez almost had the catch of the year as she made an athletic dive for what seemed to be a sure hit, but her valiant attempt fell just inches short.
Parsons and Grant each added base hits for the Bears.
"I wasn't surprised at all that our kids were able to rally," said Towne. "They've been doing it all year."
"We fought through the adversity," added Bears second baseman Caty Grahf, the only senior on the youthful LZ roster. "No one expected us to be here (in the sectionals) but we just kept battling."