EAST PEORIA -- Hannah Taylor is as cool, calm and even-keeled as a teenage kid comes.
When you're this clutch, what's to worry about?
The author of the game-winning hit in last year's state championship game, Taylor was in the middle of things again Friday. Glenbard South's senior singled in the go-ahead run, then crushed a 2-run homer as the Raiders inched closer to a repeat title by beating Tinley Park 5-1 in Friday's Class 3A semifinal at Eastside Centre.
"I just go out, play my game, and hopefully things fall into place," Taylor batted away matter-of-factly to questions about her clutch hitting. "Coming here, it brought back good memories. But this is just another game."
The next game won't just be another game.
Glenbard South (30-5) will play Alton Marquette and Mississippi State-bound ace Alexis Silkwood, a 3-2 winner over Sterling, in today's Class 3A final, hoping to become the first large school to go back-to-back since Thornwood in 1990-91.
Graduating seven seniors off last year's team, starting two freshmen, Raiders coach Julie Fonda didn't forecast this. Glenbard South didn't even keep its reservation at the Hampton Inn, where it stayed in its four previous trips. The Raiders instead are next door at the Par-A-Dice Hotel.
The cards do seem to be coming up for Fonda and Co.
"If you would have told me in April that we'd be here, I'd have told you you're crazy. We'll take it," Fonda said. "We're here, let's try to bring home another one."
Fonda can thank Taylor for being in this spot again. Taylor, who will play next year at Wisconsin-Whitewater, has an uncanny knack for the big moment. She had the game-winning hit against Lemont in the sectional final and scored the winning run in the 11th inning in Monday's supersectional.
With two outs in the fourth inning of a 1-1 game Friday, she blooped a single just behind second base to bring in Ashton Cattenhead. Next time up, she drilled her second homer of the year to left for a pair of insurance runs.
"She has ice in her veins," Fonda said. "The kid just does not buckle under pressure."
Neither does Stephanie Chitkowski.
Relieving Jane Trzaska to start the third inning, like she did Monday, Chitkowski tossed five shutout innings and repeatedly worked into and out of trouble. Three times Tinley Park put the leadoff runner on against Chitkowski but never could bust through. Chitkowski (18-2) struck out five.
"Just need to breathe. It sounds stupid, but that's what I need to do," said Chitkowski, who will play at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs next year. "We got some clutch hits, which made things less stressful."
Tinley Park (24-8), making its first state appearance, helped make Chitkowski's task a little easier. The Titans were picked off at third base for the third out in the third and fifth innings, the second time with two runners on and No. 3 hitter Sam Alberto up in a 2-1 game. Tinley Park also had a runner cut down at the plate in the sixth, and a runner thrown out at second in the first on a play the Titans did score on.
"That's stuff you see more in summer ball. You don't see it too much in high school," Fonda said of Tinley Park trying to bait her team into mistakes in the field. "My kids reacted well. All I can say is we got out of it."
Fonda's newcomers to state fared quite well.
Freshman Payton Carli singled to start the game, and Cattenhead squeezed her in. Cattenhead singled and scored on Taylor's hit in the fourth, then doubled and scored on Taylor's homer in the sixth.
Cattenhead, a junior, transferred back to Glenbard South this year after attending Huntley as a sophomore.
"Probably playing summer ball," is where Cattenhead said she was last year at this time. "This is just like any other game, just on a bigger level."
Sounding more like a Fonda assistant coach than a high school senior, Taylor said her biggest worry Friday was how the other girls would react at state.
How can things get any better in East Peoria?
"Let's have a repeat," she said simply.
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96