Neuqua Valley carried out its game plan perfectly, and in the process made it's 9-0 regional win over Wheaton Warrenville South on Wednesday look surprisingly easy.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats (20-12) pushed across a run in the first, tacked on three more in the second and busted the game wide open with a 5-spot in the fourth inning. All the hosts needed was Dominica Lange's RBI double in the first inning because pitcher Megan Bilgri was at her best, blanking the No. 12-seeded Tigers on just two hits while striking out seven.
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"I was feeling really good. This is probably one of my best games," said Bilgri, who helped her team advance to Saturday's regional title game at Neuqua Valley against No. 3 Downers Grove North. "My riseball was working really well. The umpire wasn't really calling it, but as long as people swing at it I'll keep throwing it."
Wildcats coach Melissa Wilson was thrilled to see Bilgri and her battery mate so sharp.
"Megan has been doing a great job for us all year," Wilson said. "She's a force to be reckoned with and she pitched really well today. She really kept them on their toes and she was bringing the heat. And Haleigh Yerkes does a great job behind the plate calling the pitches and supporting her. That was great to see as well."
Another great thing was the play of leadoff hitter Julia Huebner, a sophomore who reached safely all four times, scored twice and drove in four runs. Huebner was hit by a Maddie Briggs pitch in the first and came around on Lange's double in the gap for the first score of the game.
"We just came out thinking, let's get on the board quick and stay tough on defense," said Huebner, who had a 2-run double in the second and a 2-run single in the fourth. "Honestly being hit, to me, you get on base, you get on base. After that you just kind of go with it."
Wheaton Warrenville South, which closes the year 13-15, could muster just two hits in the game, singles from Maddie Trost and Brooke Wilson.
"We just got beat," Tigers coach Jeff Pawlak said. "They're a good team and I give all the credit in the world to them. We fell behind 4-0 and against a pitcher like that it's just tough for us … they played very well. She threw hard and she worked her rise and we had a hard time staying off of it. She dominated the game."
The Wildcats finished the game with 9 hits, including a pair of doubles off the bat of Lange. Wilson is hopeful the team stays hot on Saturday as it claims to win its first regional title since 2012.
"Good defense, hitting, it's hard to beat a team that does both well," she said. "Today we did both well and it was great to see. They know what is at stake. They know that once they lose they are done and I think they are really hungry to keep on playing and hopefully go after that regional title.
"We've got a tough game coming up on Saturday, but at the same time these girls are excited, they are intense and they're willing to put in the work to get it done."