Barrington senior third baseman Jennifer Inamoto embraces the opportunity to hit with two strikes on her.
"It's challenging," Inamoto says. "It's fun."
Inamoto sure did make a two-strike pitch some fun for the Fillies on Friday afternoon. She took Lauren Stanley's 1-2 offering deep over the left field fence in the bottom of the first inning, staking Barrington to a 3-0 lead in what became a 10-0 domination of Cary-Grove in the championship game of the Class 4A Cary-Grove regional.
It's Barrington's 13th straight regional title under coach Perry Peterson. In fact, the last time the Fillies did not win a regional title -- in 2001 -- they lost 1-0 to Mundelein on the same field they were celebrating Friday's championship on.
Barrington (25-11), which notched at least 25 wins for the 14th straight year, will take on Rockton Hononegah Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the Jacobs sectional. Hononegah defeated Harlem 4-0 in the Rockford Guilford regional final Friday.
It took top seed Barrington less than 10 pitches to set the tone Friday against No. 2 seed Cary-Grove (19-13). Trojans' starter Amanda DeGroote struggled early, hitting leadoff batter Erin Ward with a pitch and then walking Taylor Moran. Cary-Grove coach Tammy Olson chose to go to senior Lauren Stanley in the circle at that point and Inamoto greeted Stanley's fourth pitch with a crushing swing to put the Fillies, who finished third in Class 4A last year, ahead 3-0.
"Our coaches always prepare us real well so you always have a mindset about what they're going to throw. With two strikes the game plan is to choke up and just make contact. You have to do something with two strikes and luckily the wind took that one," said Inamoto of her third home run of the season, a blast Peterson said, "Changed the flow of the game."
With that cushion, Fillies' junior right-hander Keenan Dolezal was able to put it on cruise control. She threw a 1-hitter in the five-inning win, striking out one and walking one. Cary-Grove's only hit was a clean single to left by Caitlyn Adams to lead off the fourth.
"I felt loose and well-rested," said Dolezal, now 24-9 on the season. "When Jen hit (the home run) it changed the game right away and it really helped the atmosphere of the game. There wasn't as much pressure and it was a lot more fun."
Barrington put the game away with a 7-run second. Sending 11 batters to the plate, Inamoto and Kat Panos each had 2-run singles in the inning for the Fillies, while Katie Dehnert and Kelly Katis each had RBI singles before Rachel MacDonald finished the scoring with a pinch-hit RBI double.
"This team has battled a lot and persevered all year long," said Peterson. "This makes them a first-time champion this season. We played in several different events and didn't make it happen so now they finally have a sense of accomplishment, that they finally did something."
Cary-Grove, which finished the season 19-13, did get a strong outing from senior Caroline Zasadil, the Trojans' third pitcher of the day. After taking over with no outs in the second and allowing Barrington's final 2 runs, she gave up just 2 hits in the final two innings.
"They came out to play and they played well," said Cary-Grove coach Tammy Olson of the Fillies. "They're a strong team and we wish them the best. You gotta be able to hit Keenan. We had to play our best game today and obviously we didn't."