When the ball left Melissa Orton's bat, she never expected it to clear the fence.
Nothing Downers Grove South does these playoffs should surprise anymore.
Orton hit a go-ahead 2-run home run off Downers Grove North ace Elaine Heflin with two outs in the sixth, Jessica Andree followed with another homer and the No. 9 seed Mustangs sprung another playoff upset, 3-2 in Saturday's Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional final.
It was only Orton's second homer of the year. She couldn't recall her first, but she'll remember her stunning shot to center off a Heflin heater.
"So surprised, just because Elaine is such a great pitcher," said Orton, a junior. "I got ahead of it a little and got to it before it got too high."
Downers Grove South's sectional championship is the seventh in program history, fifth under veteran coach Ron Havelka. But hardly expected. A team starting three freshmen, including pitcher Caroline Hedgcock, and just two seniors was 4-5 at one point, but last Saturday rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat No. 1 seed Naperville Central.
Now the Mustangs (22-10) are in Monday's supersectional in Rosemont versus St. Charles East, seeking the school's first state appearance since taking fourth in Class AA in 2007.
"We got a little momentum going and the kids really got to believing they could do something because we beat such an outstanding Naperville Central team," Havelka said. "This Downers North team is good and I tell you, Heflin is as tough as it gets."
UIC recruit Heflin seemed in complete control Saturday, allowing just 1 baserunner on a bloop single through five innings. Hannah Mrazek's solo homer in the fifth staked her to a 1-0 lead, and Heflin quickly retired the first two batters in the sixth.
Kristen Bialek followed with a popup that landed between three fielders on the edge of the infield, keeping the inning alive.
Next thing the Trojans knew, Orton was rounding the bases on her homer to center. It was just the second homer Heflin had allowed on the varsity -- she gave up the first Wednesday to Benet's Stephanie Abello.
"Little bloop, ball lands in the infield, and then boom," Trojans coach Mark Magro said. "That's tough."
Downers Grove North (26-9) was seeking its first sectional title since 1979, in its first sectional meeting against its cross-town rival. The two schools played in four regional games from 1999-2005, Downers Grove South winning all four.
The Trojans had ample opportunities in this one.
Downers Grove North had runners thrown out at the plate in the first and third innings and stranded nine baserunners. The Trojans drew within 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth but left the bases loaded.
"I even said (when the runners were thrown out), 'That's going to kill us,'" Magro said, "but my kids are being aggressive. I can't fault them for that. That's a hot team over there right now."
Heflin (17-5) struck out 11 and allowed 4 hits. Fellow senior Carolyn Nojiri was 2-for-2 and reached base 4 times. Lefty freshman Hedgcock (15-7) struck out four, three in key spots with runners on base.
"Heflin was so fun to pitch against," Hedgcock said. "These playoffs have been great. I can only hope it gets even better."
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