Grayslake North's softball players gave a listen to Mariah's voice.
Then they rocked Round Lake.
After Round Lake's young, scrappy Panthers threw 5 runs on the board in the second inning of Wednesday's Class 4A McHenry regional play-in, host Grayslake North hustled into its dugout. Mariah Gentile, running in from her position in center field, shouted words of encouragement to her teammates.
"I just said, 'There's a lot of game left. Let's stay positive,' " Gentile said.
The Knights most positively did that, with a "Make It Happen" approach, so to speak. They scored 13 unanswered runs en route to a 16-6 win.
Jessica Vaughn's 2-run single with one out in the bottom of the fifth ended the game and vaulted Grayslake North (19-13-2) into today's 4:30 p.m. regional semifinal at McHenry against the host school.
The speedy Gentile, who tripled twice, was just doing her job as a vocal leader.
"When everyone's down, it seems like (talking and staying positive) travels throughout our team," Gentile said. "So I just try to do that as much as I can to get them up."
No. 5 Round Lake (9-19) was seeking its first double-digit win season in at least 12 years, according to coach Travin Kozel, who announced he's stepping down after six seasons. The Panthers got RBI singles from Michelle Crisantos and Amanda Olsen as well as a bases-loaded walk from Hayley Steinberg in their big second inning to take a 5-0 lead. But No. 4 Grayslake North responded immediately.
The lefty-hitting Gentile got things started in the bottom of the second with a leadoff triple to deep left-center field. She then scored on Vaughn's RBI bunt. After back-to-back run-scoring singles by Kayla Switalla (3-for-4, 3 RBI) and Kelsey Delahunty, Nikki Livengood (2-for-4) belted a 3-run homer, her sixth of the season, to give Grayslake North the lead for good at 6-5.
"We've been talking a lot about being mentally tough," Knights coach Molly Tomlinson said. "That's one thing that we stressed after we went down 5-0 -- 'We got a lot of game left. We need to stay mentally tough in this game. Look for our pitch and just score runs one by one.' It ended up working out. Our bats came alive."
Grayslake North erupted again in the third, as Gentile started a rally with a leadoff walk. The senior eventually capped a 7-run inning with a 2-run triple. The frame also included a bunt single by Danielle Runyon (2-for-3), another RBI single by Switalla, a run-scoring groundout by winning pitcher Sarah Littleton and 4 Round Lake errors.
"Growing pains," Kozel said of his players. "They haven't learned to play through (the adversity) yet."
Round Lake's Kristin Pierce finished 2-for-3 with a line-drive double in her final high school at-bat. She and pitcher Heather Aviles, who replaced Ashley Wegner after the second inning, were the team's only seniors.
"They played well," Gentile said of the Panthers. "They came to win. They were alive in the first inning, unlike us. We had to wake up a little bit."
Kozel is handing in his resignation for family reasons. He has four children, including a 1-year-old.
"I'm sure (the team) is going to jump to 14 or 15 (wins next season)," Kozel said. "The (girls) are the only reason I'd even think about coming back. They're a good bunch."