Having stranded eight runners through the first four innings, Kaneland's softball team was in search of a timely base hit against Marengo ace pitcher Mariah Dionne Tuesday afternoon.
Trailing 3-0, senior Courtney Davis laced a 2-out, 2-run single in the fifth inning to pull the Knights within a run.
After Davis worked her way out of a bases-loaded jam in relief of starting pitcher Aly Jesionowski in the top of the sixth, the Knights (1-1) tied the game on Meg Cohrs' infield groundout and took their first lead a few moments later on Hannah Theobald's 2-out RBI single to center.
Davis (1-1) retired the Indians (3-1) in order in the seventh as the Knights pocketed a hard-fought, 4-3 nonconference victory in Maple Park.
The win served as a measure of revenge for the Knights' veterans, who had lingering memories from last year's 2-1 Class 3A state semifinal loss to the Indians in East Peoria.
"It was a great accomplishment," said Theobald. "We were really trying to beat them. The loss at state to them (last year) was real tough. We came back strong today finally and got our goal done."
Theobald, a sophomore who appeared in 20 varsity games last season, won the late battle against Dionne and supplied the eventual game-winning hit on a 2-2 pitch.
"I was looking for something in the strike zone," said Theobald. "She (Dionne) had been throwing rise (balls) all day. She had real good movement."
With 9 base hits and 7 walks, Kaneland applied consistent pressure against Dionne, who went 26-4 on the mound last spring.
"We did stay disciplined throughout the game," said Knights coach Mike Kuefler. "We didn't start pressing when it got dire with only a couple innings left."
Left-handed hitting sophomore Lexi Abruzzo (2 for 3) ignited the sixth-inning rally with a leadoff triple that rolled all the way to the fence in right-center.
"It's great having that true lefty slapper up there," Kuefler said of Abruzzo. "The kid can swing the bat. She can stand in -- she can power slap. She's got every tool that you can ask for from that position."
Kuefler downplayed the significance of recording his first victory as head coach.
"It's not my first win -- it's the 2016 Knights' first win," said Kuefler. "I've been here six years (five as an assistant coach). It's a big win for us. They knocked us out of the state finals last year."
Dionne recorded 3 of Marengo's 7 base hits.
"It was two good teams going at it," said Marengo coach Dwain Nance. "I'd like to play them again. If we did, we'd likely face them in the state tournament again like we did last year."