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updated: 6/14/2014 10:22 PM

Warren claims softball state championship

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  • Warren's Amber Leneau reacts to her team's state title victory with teammate Emily Poremba near second base after the Blue Devils wrapped up the Class 4A state championship by beating Sandburg 8-4 on Saturday in East Peoria. The championship is Warren's first in a girls team sport.

      Warren's Amber Leneau reacts to her team's state title victory with teammate Emily Poremba near second base after the Blue Devils wrapped up the Class 4A state championship by beating Sandburg 8-4 on Saturday in East Peoria. The championship is Warren's first in a girls team sport.
    Clark Brooks/PhotoNews

 

EAST PEORIA -- Amber Leneau had an unforgettable final Saturday to her junior year.

The Warren second-baseman stroked the first softball home run of her career with two outs in the seventh inning of the Blue Devils' Class 4A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Eastside Centre.

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Six batters later, Leneau squeezed the final out of the Devils' 8-4 victory over Sandburg on an infield pop-up.

The Devils' players mobbed each other near the second-base bag as the girls made history at the Gurnee school: the first state championship for a female team sports program in its history.

"We overcame a lot of adversity," first-year Warren coach Bryan McNulty said.

"I've never even had a double," Leneau said of her home run that marked the last of 6 unanswered runs for Warren. "(The final out) was kind of scary. The last one was not going down."

The Leneau home run marked a symbolic convergence for the Devils; the wind that had wreaked havoc against Sandburg had suddenly died as she made contact.

"We had three balls that were going out of the yard," Sandburg coach James Fabianski said. "It could have been a heck of a closer game without the wind (blowing in)."

Warren starter Jana Wagner, who went the distance for the second straight day, gladly acknowledged the influence of the wind.

"Definitely," Wagner said of the three potential home runs that were caught close to the fence by Devils outfielders.

"One of them I definitely thought was out -- I couldn't even look."

"That's the game," McNulty said of the role the wind played. "We adjusted to hit the ball on the ground, to hit line drives."

Crystall Pennell staked the Devils (27-9) to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second with a roped double down the left-field line that scored Rachele Belletini and pinch runner Jensen Plata.

But the lead evaporated in the Eagles' fourth when a bloop single and subsequent errant throw enabled two Sandburg runners to score.

Cierra Adamus' perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt then gave Sandburg (24-16) a 3-2 lead.

But Warren did not wait long to regain the advantage for good.

Megan Scott ripped a single to center with one out in the Devils' fifth inning to plate Jazmin Bonke and Michelle Vasen.

After Wagner escaped a near-2-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, Warren took command with a 3-spot in the sixth.

Belletini had the lethal blow, a bases-loaded single to score Vasen and Shannon McKeon.

"We worked our hardest and got a couple of hits," Belletini said. "I got the bat on the ball, and it happened to work for us."

The surprise Leneau home run upped the Devils' lead to 8-3, and Wagner pitched out of another jam in the Eagles' seventh -- allowing an innocuous sacrifice fly in the process -- to illuminate the Devils' unprecedented achievement.

"They were too much for us," Fabianski said. "Right from the get-go they were putting the bat on the ball."

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