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updated: 6/1/2013 5:29 PM

St. Charles East wins 1st sectional since 1994

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  • St. Charles East shows off the sectional plaque it won by beating Glenbard North Saturday.

    St. Charles East shows off the sectional plaque it won by beating Glenbard North Saturday.
    Photo courtesy of St. Charles East softball


Score one for speed over power, small ball trumping long ball.

No. 2 seed Glenbard North ripped the ball all over the field -- and over the fence -- Saturday at the Class 4A St. Charles East sectional championship game.

No. 1 seed St. Charles East countered with just one extra-base hit. The Saints made it count, a 3-run double from Sarah Collalti to cap a 5-run fifth inning and turn a 5-2 deficit into a 7-6 victory.

It's just the Saints' second sectional championship in school history and first since 1994. St. Charles East (29-5) will play Downers Grove South at 4:30 p.m. Monday at The Ballpark in Rosemont in the supersectional with a berth in next weekend's state tournament on the line.

Downers Grove South (22-10), the No. 9 seed in the Neuqua Valley sectional, advanced by beating Downers Grove North, 3-2.

"This is amazing," said center fielder Tess Hupe who led the Saints going 3-for-4. "This team is so close. We all love each other and we love playing together. We didn't want to let it end. We picked each other up and all believed in each other and I think that's how we did it."

Glenbard North (26-5) outhit the Saints 13-7 including 5-1 on extra-base hits. The Panthers also walked three times to put 16 runners on base.

Of course the only number that matters is the 7-6 final.

"Speed is a big part of our game and speed never slumps as coach always says," Hupe said. "We used that."

Panthers starter Lindsey Cherry set the Saints down in order in the first, her only 1-2-3 inning. The Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the third on an RBI double from Ashley Stiver and a run-scoring single by Sarah Petzold.

Hupe drove in the Saints' first run with a 2-out RBI single in the third, and Collalti lifted a sacrifice fly to score Katie Kolb to tie the game 2-2 in the fourth.

That set up the turning point in the game, a wild fifth inning for both teams. The Panthers scored three in the top of the fifth to take what turned out to be a short-lived 5-2 lead after the Saints answered for five in their half.

Stiver led off the fifth with a home run. Rucha Amin doubled in a run for a 4-2 lead and No. 9 hitter Amanda Manton singled home Amin.

Saints starter Haley Beno got a fly ball to right to leave runners at second and third -- the Panthers stranded 9 runners the first five innings including 7 in scoring position.

"We had plenty of opportunities all day," Glenbard North coach Josh Sanew said. "If you get another hit there you break things open and put their heads down a little. It was just a shame. One inning was our hiccup and unfortunately ended our season."

The hiccup started with a quality at-bat by the Saints' No. 9 hitter, catcher Shelby Holtz, who singled. Lexi Perez followed with a play that -- coming on the heels of a sectional championship loss to Bartlett last year on a controversial call -- also will be remembered in Carol Stream.

Perez was ruled safe on a bunt that immediately had Sanew out arguing the call. Hupe took advantage by laying down another bunt that she easily beat out without a throw to load the bases with no outs.

"I just looked at the defense and I knew that was a good opportunity to take it and they were all riled up after Lexi got (called) safe," Hupe said.

After a strikeout, cleanup hitter Alex Latoria nearly put the Saints up 6-5 with a grand slam on a ball that sailed just left of the left-field foul pole. On the next pitch Cherry hit Latoria to force in a run.

Cherry got another strikeout to keep the bases loaded with two outs and a chance to get out of the inning still up 5-3, except she grazed Kate Peterburs for the second run forced in on a hit-batter in the inning that cut their lead to 5-4.

Collalti then delivered the Saints' only extra-base hit, a high fly ball to left field that off the bat appeared it might be caught. But the Panthers were playing somewhat shallow, the ball kept carrying, and it eventually fell in near the fence to clear the bases.

"I was just trying to make contact," Collalti said. "It went pretty far. I was totally surprised. I was like 'Shoot, I hope that's not another pop-up.'"

"We left a ball up in that situation," Sanew said. "We slipped on the play a little. Again, you have to make a play and we weren't able to do that. They took advantage of it."

Trailing 7-5, Petzold led off seventh with a long home run to right field. Caitlyn Beckler singled with one out to put the tying run on base before Beno induced grounders to third and to short to end the game.

The Saints quickly started a celebration worthy of a team excited to advance farther than all but one in program history, and coach Kelly Horan found herself in the middle of it.

"I'm speechless right now," Horan said. "Cherry is a great pitcher and we knew the key to our at-bats was to be disciplined. For the most of the time we swung at good pitches and put it in play. When you put it in play is when you can utilize speed.

"The name of the game is my kids didn't quit. They didn't get bothered. Beno kept throwing strikes and giving us a chance. My God this is fun right now."

Beno improved to 20-3 while Cherry fell to 18-5.

"It was so cool because I was not doing my best but my teammates and defense had my back," Beno said. "They won it for me. I knew coming in they (the Panthers) were probably going to hit me hard and they did. I was just trying to stay focused on one batter at a time no matter what they did before."

Petzold led Glenbard North going 3-for-4 with 2 RBI.

"We fell apart that inning," Sanew said. "We gave them a couple runs. It stings. It stings bad. I'm proud of the girls. They came and battled, gave themselves a chance in that seventh inning. We've had a great year."

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