During her four-year career playing varsity softball for Cary-Grove, Lisa Semro has spent her fair share of time as a leadoff hitter.
That experience paid off for the Trojans on Thursday, even though Semro now bats in the No. 6 spot in the lineup.
Semro led off both the second and fourth innings with singles and both times ended up scoring as the second-seeded Trojans defeated No. 3 seed Crystal Lake South 6-3 in the second semifinal of the Class 4A Cary-Grove regional.
The Trojans (19-13) take on top-seeded Barrington (24-11) for the regional championship and a spot in next week's Jacobs sectional at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Barrington, which finished third in Class 4A last season, is seeking its 11th straight regional title, Cary-Grove its first since 2011.
"When leading off I always put a little extra pressure on myself to set the tone for the inning," Semro said. "I enjoy that extra pressure."
Cary-Grove spotted the Gators (15-12) a run in the top of the first inning when Kim Woods reached on a 2-base error, went to third on a single by Sam McLean (2-for-3) and scored when she and McLean executed a perfect first-and-third double steal.
But the Trojans came back and grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning and never looked back.
With two outs, Jamie Deering doubled off the left field fence then scored the tying run on a single up the middle from Brianne Prank, who went to second on the throw home. Prank then scored on a Grace Pilz double to right to give C-G a 2-1 lead.
"Super important," said Semro of her team's ability to come back and take the lead away from the Gators. "They are huge competitors and we knew it was important to keep our energy up."
"They had a little jitters in them so to come back and answer was real big at that time," said Cary-Grove coach Tammy Olson.
The Trojans made it 4-1 in the second as Semro led off with a single to left, was sacrificed to second by Caroline Zasadil and scored on Sarah Kendeigh's single. Kendeigh was sacrificed to second by Sarah Purpura and scored on a single from Amy Clemment.
Pitching with a 4-1 lead, C-G senior Lauren Stanley was efficient. For the day, Stanley (6-1) scattered 5 hits, struck out 3 and walked 1.
"Lauren did a nice job all seven innings," Olson said. "She threw well."
The Gators closed the gap to 4-2 in the top of the fourth when McLean singled and scampered to third on an outfield error then scored on Taylor Kassel's single up the middle.
But Cary-Grove answered again as Semro led off the bottom of the inning with another single, went to second on another sacrifice by Prank, then third on Kendeigh's groundout. Purpura then beat out a grounder to deep short and Semro scored to make it 5-2.
Cary-Grove added a run in the fifth, Prank's RBI single driving home Caitlyn Adams, who led off the inning with a single. Brooke Maddox's sacrifice fly drove in Jenica Terry, who had singled, to bring the Gators to within 6-3 with two outs in the top of the seventh and South was a baserunner away from bringing the tying run to the plate after Katelyn Russ singled but Stanley got Erin Yazel to ground out to Deering at short to end the game.
"We're good when we score first but we weren't today," said CLS coach Scott Busam. "All three facets of the game let us down at some point today. We missed opportunities and they capitalized on our mistakes. They strung their hits together and we scattered ours. We took a lot of pitches today and Lauren is not a fireballer but she hits her spots and she doesn't walk people. We were too passive at the plate today."
Junior Hailee Massie (5-10) took the loss in the circle for the Gators, allowing 10 hits with 2 strikeouts, 2 walks and a hit batter.
"We have a lot of young talent I'm excited about," Busam said. "We're looking forward to the future."
Cary-Grove's future is Friday, and the Trojans have a chance to knock off one of the top programs in the state.
"Solid defense and solid hitting," said Olson when asked what it will take to beat the Fillies. "We have to play the whole game."