Finally, a team brought in pitchers who could shut down the powerful Warren offense.
The DeKalb Barbs have an abundance of quality arms, which was evident after 3 innings of action in Saturday's Class 4A sectional title game in Crystal Lake. At that point, the Blue Devils had one ringing single off the bat of cleanup hitter Sam Belletini, and that was it. DeKalb was up a run.
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The Barbs seemingly had figured out a way to shut down the Warren offense, except for the aforementioned Belletini.
And in this case, it turned out to be a heck of an exception.
She followed up a key DeKalb error in the fourth inning with a 2-run blast to left field and Warren (26-6) earned its first supersectional berth with a 6-1 win over DeKalb.
Belletini, who split time behind the plate with Jodie Hurd this season, proved that anyone in a Warren uniform can hurt an opponent. The Blue Devils advance to Monday's 7 p.m. supersectional game at Barrington's Field of Dreams against the host Fillies.
"I thought I had popped it up to center field,'' Belletini said of her 2-run homer. "It's crazy. We just have such great chemistry on this team."
After the 3-run fourth inning, the Devils coasted on the pitching of winning right-handed pitcher Jana Wagner. She began her outing by striking five out of the first six hitters. And then she fell behind until the Belletini blast.
"I was a little nervous to start,'' Wagner said. "It was a close game for awhile. I was working with my riseball and my curve outside. On the inside, I would throw my screwball.''
Like many of her teammates, Wagner used her eye-black to transform her. In Wagner's case, it was the total package. She was completely covered in eye black on her face.
After allowing a two-out single in the first inning, Wagner tossed 6 shutout innings, dodging several DeKalb rallies in the process. She allowed 5 hits, including a pair of doubles in the final four frames.
"Jana did an awesome job,'' said Warren coach Tina Meyer. "She had some key strikeouts.''
Belletini was the lone Blue Devils hitter with 2 hits. She also drew a walk.
Warren added to its lead in the sixth inning, this time rallying after two outs. Belletini reached with a walk. Megan Scott's bloop hit chased her to second. Catcher Jodie Hurd bounced one to second; the ball was booted and both runners raced home giving Warren a 5-1 lead.
"We watched their game with Harlem,'' Belletini said. "And we knew their second pitcher threw off-speed. But they started their No.1 pitcher."
The Devils added another run in the seventh. After ninth-place hitter Jazmin Bonke reached on a one-out bunt single, Michele Vasen joined her after an infield error, and first baseman Amy Ricci drove in a run with a single.
The Barbs threatened in the home half of the seventh as 2 hits put runners at second and third. Wagner retired the next two hitters and Warren had its first sectional win.
"Words can't describe this,'' Meyer said. "What a great accomplishment for Warren. It's almost surreal.''
Warren finally gets a chance to head to Barrington's Field of Dreams on Monday. The Blue Devils were scheduled to participate in Barrington's Spring Fling in March, but it was snowed out.