Jana Wagner has been a four-year varsity pitcher for the Warren softball team.
On Monday night at Barrington's Fields of Dreams, the senior right-hander saved her best for last, pitching her team to the state finals for the first time since 1980.
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Wagner, whose team lost in the same game against the same team on the same field a year ago, tossed a 5-hitter to lead the Blue Devils to a 3-1 triumph over Barrington in the Fillies own supersectional.
Reaching the final four for the first time in school history, Warren (26-9) will play Glenbard North at 5:30 p.m. in Friday's Class 4A state semifinals in East Peoria.
"I don't even know what to say," said Wagner, who struck out three and got out of two bases loaded jams giving up a combined 1 run. "I just trust my teammates. I knew it would be a tough game all the way. My screw ball really helped me."
And the bat of Michelle Vasen really helped the Blue Devils, as the senior left fielder went 3-for-4 with a key leadoff double in the fifth inning which led to the 2 runs that broke a 1-1 tie.
"We weren't a ranked team, we didn't win our conference," Vasen said. "But obviously that didn't mean anything. This was always our goal. It's crazy."
The Fillies tried to pull off a crazy finish for their seventh win in seven supersectional but they were finally denied.
Senior Erin Ward led off the bottom, of the seventh with a single to left. After a fly out to center fielder Jazmin Bonke and a strikeout, Katie Dehnert kept the hopes alive with a long single to right center.
But Wagner got the final out on a hard hit grounder to shortstop Shannon McKeon, which she gloved cleanly and threw in time to first baseman Rachele Belletini.
It ignited the Blue Devils celebration of their best state finish in school history.
"Jana was just great," Vasen said. "And we know her mom (who passed away last September) would be proud of her, just like we are."
"She was very good," said Barrington Perry Peterson of Wagner. "She did a lot of good things. She kept the ball up in the zone which was effective.
"She is very talented and I'm really happy for her. She has faced a lot of challenges and she deserves to go downstate."
Later in the year, she will head to Florida where she will study and play softball for Division II Palm Beach Atlantic College in south Florida.
"Jana's a competitor," said first-year coach Bryan McNulty. "When she's in the groove, she's real good. She had three real good games (in the postseason). She's a savvy pitcher. Kids like her find a way." Warren found its way on the scoreboard first when No. 9 hitter Lexi Leneau lined a based-loaded single to left with two outs in the top of the fourth to score Belletini.
Barrington ace and Loyola recruit Keenan Dolezal (25-10) got out of the jam by getting the next batter on a groundout back to the mound.
The Fillies (26-12) answered in the bottom of the inning when they loaded the bases for the second time after walks to Kelly Katis and Rachel Macdonald and a single to left by Kat Panos.
Pinch-hitter Liz Sweeney then delivered an RBI groundout to first to tie the game.
But the Blue Devils regained the lead in the top of the fifth when Vasen led off with the double down the left field line
McKeon followed with a single to center advancing Vasen to third.
With one out, Belletini came through with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-1 and then McKeon scooted home on a wild pitch for the 2-run cushion.
"We honestly don't believe we are underdogs going to East Peoria," Vasen added. "If we can hang with a team like Barrington and defeat a top-seed like New Trier (inn sectional semifinal), we don't think we can be called underdogs."
McNulty believed from the day he took the job last year.
"I knew we had a tons of talent," he said. "So this wasn't going to surprise me. We had a slump in the middle of the season but we started peaking toward the end. And we don't feel we are done yet."
Peterson has ton of respect for job done by McNulty.
"Bryan is a good man," Peterson said. "When he got the job he called me and said 'Is there any way we can talk'. He wanted to pick my brain and try to build a program. And he built the program. He has done a great job. I'm happy for him and what he's done." Peterson is also happy for what his players have done.
"It was neat to see this team grow," he said. "They got better as the season went on. We won 15 of our last 19 games. It was nice to see them grow and many have the opportunity to come back next season.
"Give credit to Warren. The team that played best wore the blue uniforms and deserved to win.
McNulty will be coaching players in football uniforms this fall.
He has been named the school's head coach.
"When I had the sit down with him for about two hours, I had nothing to hide and a lot to share," Peterson said. "I enjoyed it immensely. He seems like such a classy guy. He reminds me of my friend and former assistant coach Joe Sanchez (now the Barrington head football coach), who is class all the way."
With the football post, McNulty must decide if he will continue as the head softball coach.
"I will talk to my wife," he said. "I've been pulling double duty now and I'm still standing."
And his Blue Devils are standing taller than ever, with a trip to East Peoria just two days away.