There was enough action packed into the Class 4A Stevenson softball sectional championship to fill up two games Saturday in Lincolnshire.
No. 3-seeded Warren jumped out to a commanding 11-0 lead over No. 2 Lake Zurich after 3½ innings only to see the Bears battle back to cut the lead to 11-8 after five innings in this wild title game between two North Suburban Lake Division rivals.
But when all was said and done, the Blue Devils (24-9) were able to hold on for a 12-9 victory over Lake Zurich (27-5) to advance to their second supersectional championship game in a row Monday at 7 p.m. in Barrington.
After a scoreless first inning, the slugfest kicked into high gear when Warren's Megan Scott doubled off the third baseman's glove to open the top of the second inning.
Junior Rachele Belletini followed with an RBI single to center field off of Lake Zurich starter Olivia Schneider before Belletini eventually scored on a wild pitch with two outs for an early 2-0 lead.
But things got much worse for the Bears in the top of the third as Warren's Jazmin Bonke lead off with a single before Katie Malek came in to replace Schneider on the mound.
Senior Michelle Vasen followed with a bloop double down the left-field line before Scott came through with a 2-run single to right for a 4-0 advantage.
Belletini walked and scored on a 2-run double to left by Jodie Hurd to make the score 6-0.
After working out of a bases loaded, no outs jam in the bottom of the third, the Blue Devils' offensive onslaught continued in the top of the fourth as 3 errors in the inning proved to be extremely costly for Lake Zurich.
No. 9 hitter Amber Leneau reached second base on an error to get the 5-run rally started before Bonke also reached base on an error as Leneau scored on the play for a 7-0 lead.
Vasen followed with a double, but Bonke was thrown out at home plate for the first out of the inning.
Shannon McKeon reached base on a fielder's choice with Vasen just beating the tag on a close play at third base. Yet another error followed on a bunt by Scott as Vasen scored the eighth Warren run of the game.
Then came what had to be the biggest hit of the game as Belletini nailed a 3-run homer to left-center on a 2-2 pitch to give the Blue Devils their huge 11-0 lead. Belletini was only the sixth player to ever hit a ball out of the large Stevenson park as her homer sailed about 235 feet over the fence in left-center.
"Honestly, I felt like I just hit it hard to left field, and it felt great to help my team out with some runs," said Belletini, who has 3 homers this season. "Lake Zurich has been one of our biggest competitors this year and to win this game we needed to be sharp."
After beating Warren twice in the regular season, the Bears were not going to go away quietly Saturday.
The bottom of the fourth proved to be a nightmare for the Blue Devils as Lake Zurich's Carlee Parsons started a 6-run rally with a double down the left-field line off Warren reliever Jenny Carpenter, who replaced winning pitcher Jana Wagner.
Vivian Juarez followed with a bunt single before Parsons' scored Lake Zurich's first run of the contest on a fielder's choice RBI by Rachel Dawson.
Then a walk by McKenna Larson and a bunt single by Katie Brown loaded the bases for Maria Schroeder.
Schroeder (4-for-4, 3 doubles, 5 RBI, 1 walk) did not let her teammates down as she cleared the bases with a 3-run double to left field to make the score 11-4.
With two outs, Lake Zurich's Amanda Guercio became only the seventh player ever to hit a home run out of the Stevenson park as her 2-run homer went over the fence in left-center in almost the exact same place as Belletini's homer to cut the gap to 11-6 after four innings.
The Bears' furious comeback continued in the bottom of the fifth as Juarez singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on an RBI single by Dawson.
With one out, Schroeder's RBI double to right-center drove in Dawson to pull to within 11-8.
"We are, I think, the best offensive team in the state, it's just a bummer that defensively things didn't work out for us today," said Lake Zurich coach Amanda Rodriguez. "My girls have been strong all season, they have been able to do what it takes to get the job done, but we came up one inning short today."
Hurd hit her second double with one out in the seventh before scoring on a two-out RBI triple to right by Leneau for a 12-8 lead.
Larson reached on an error to start the bottom of the seventh and scored on Schroeder's third double of the game to make the score 12-9. But Carpenter retired the next two batters to start the Warren celebration.
"No matter what happens, Lake Zurich was going to come back, but I thought our girls showed a great amount of poise, they stuck with it, and they are very resilient," said Warren coach Bryan McNulty, whose team was outhit 16-12. "Rachele (Belletini) was struggling, but her Dad has worked with her a lot, and she got a hold of one there and that does not happen here often."
Larson also had a double in a game that featured a total of 13 extra-base hits.