Glenbard North's Alex Caliva broke her bat at practice on Friday.
But for the first time in three years, the senior second baseman did not have a broken heart after playing in a Class 4A sectional championship game.
Caliva and the top-seeded Panthers turned the tables from the past two years when they lost 1-run games.
This time, it was Caliva's double to left that scored Stephanie Campos with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-5 victory over No. 2 Conant (26-6) on Saturday at Bartlett High School.
Glenbard North (29-5) advanced to Monday's 6:30 p.m. supersectional at the Rosemont Stadium against Oak Park-River Forest.
"I'm speechless," said Caliva, whose solo home run to left-center sparked the Panthers' offense after they fell behind 4-0 in the third inning on a 3-run homer by Conant sophomore catcher Dream Aaron.
"We've been here three times and we know what it feels like losing twice," Caliva added. "It was great to pull through this time and get the championship. I'm so proud how we came back."
Caliva came back with a different bat than the one she used in her team's 10-4 semifinal win over St. Charles North on Tuesday.
"I didn't know which one I was going to use until I asked our freshman Kayla (Quanstrum) if I could try hers. She just said, 'let me know how it feels' and later I told her 'I loved it!' "
You can bet she loved it as the Illinois State recruit went 2-for-3 with a home run, a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4-4 and the walk-off double which gave her half of her team's RBI.
"Talk about making it exciting," said Panthers coach Josh Sanew, who in his seventh season calls this his best group from an all-around standpoint of pitching, hitting and fielding. "This time, we were on the other end of a 1-run game. It feels a lot better this way.
"We got down 4-0 and these kids could easily have hung their heads. But they've been through this before. They are experienced and they're not going to quit. They showed how resilient they are."
A prime example was on the pitcher's mound where senior CeCe Dopart (25-4) beared down after the 4-0 deficit and allowed only 1 more run the rest of the way.
She finished with 9 strikeouts and 1 walk while scattering 8 hits.
"Falling behind (4-0) didn't really affect me because I knew we would come back with runs," said the Eckerd College (Fla.) recruit. "It wasn't a big deal to me. I just kept throwing my pitches and doing my best for the team."
Sara Neuman and Lauren Grzelak led off the top of third by reaching on errors.
With one out, Neuman scored from third base when DeeDee Durr bunted and reached on another error.
Dopart got the second out before Aaron belted a 1-2 pitch over the left-center field fence for her sixth homer, giving Conant a school-record 51 for the season.
"Dream has been the backbone for our team in so many situations," said Conant coach CathyAnn Smith. "She has a heart of gold and battles hard in every game."
Glenbard North battled back with 3 runs in the bottom of the fourth, sparked by Caliva's one-out solo homer to left-center.
Heather Sperlazzo followed by reaching on an error, and Quanstrum singled to center.
They moved up one base on a wild pitch, setting up a two-out line-drive single to center by Lauren Gramann (2-for-3) for 2 more runs.
The Panthers nudged ahead in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runs.
Shortstop Syndey Benz (3-for-4) led off with a double to right-center and Campos was hit by a pitch.
A groundout to first baseman Hailey Rothstein gave the Panthers runners on second and third.
Caliva then got Benz home with a sacrifice fly to right fielder Alissa Wachal for the second out.
Sperlazzo's infield hit scored Campos for the 5-4 lead.
The Cougars tied it in the top of the sixth when they loaded the bases with one out on singles by Wachal and Kali Schumacher and a hit by pitch for Grzelak.
Elisa Ambrose drew a RBI walk to tie the game before Dopart got out of the inning with a strikeout and popout to first.
"I thought CeCe did a really good job," Sanew said. "She got out of some big jams. Getting out of the bases-loaded jam with only 1 run was big. Otherwise they could have gotten some big momentum there, and we would have been in trouble."
The Panthers' winning rally in the seventh began when Benz singled to left.
Campos' fielder's choice resulted in the first out when O'Malley (2-for-4, triple) made a nice play on the bunt, throwing to shortstop Durr for the putout at second base.
A popout to second baseman Telly Hunter provided the second out before Caliva produced the game-winner.
"That was a big play by their third baseman, you've got to give her credit," Caliva said of O'Malley shutting down the Panthers' sacrifice attempt.
"I just went up there trying to keep the inning going and move the runner. I didn't expect that (game-winning double). I loved Stephanie (Campos) turning on the wheels and going home."
Conant left the field after completing its finest season in Smith's 14 years.
"Our best season ever," Smith said of her Mid-Suburban League champs, who graduate O'Malley and Hunter. "The kids fought to the last out. They came ready to play. That's the downfall of the postseason. Someone has to lose and it was us."
Smith will return most of her roster.
"It's a great group," she said. "To make the Sweet 16 is a phenomenal feat. And the girls really played with heart all season. Now the young ones know what is as all about."
And these Panthers now know what if feels like to win a sectional.
"It definitely feels real good after the last two years," Dopart said. "The third time is the charm."
"We were kind of coming into the dugout with our heads down after that big inning they had (4 runs in the third)," Caliva said. "But we knew we come back. There is so much talent on this team. We had to pull through and we stuck it out."