Something had to give.
Burlington Central's Emily Kisch and Marengo's Mariah Dionne locked up in a classic pitchers' duel for 9 scoreless innings until the Indians (29-8) pushed across an unearned run in the top of the 10th and held on for a 1-0 Class 3A sectional semifinal victory over the Rockets (26-8) Wednesday afternoon at Genoa-Kingston.
Amber Proberts' RBI single -- a soft popup that barely eluded the outstretched glove of Rockets shortstop Kristina Ahlers -- drove in Susie Nawrot, who reached on a 2-base outfield error to start the 10th inning.
Kisch (15-6) worked her way out of further damage, thanks in part to a pair of Marengo runners thrown out at the plate on infield grounders.
"She did such a good job keeping her composure," said Rockets first-year head coach Erica Maisto. "It's something special that you can't really teach anyone."
That set the stage for a tension-filled bottom half of the frame.
Back-to-back infield errors allowed leadoff hitters Jill Neisendorf and Sarah Kinney to reach, and a well-executed sacrifice bunt by Kassie Kramer put runners on second and third with 1 out.
At that point, Marengo coach Dwain Nance elected to have Dionne (20-6) issue an intentional walk to Kisch -- her second in 3 innings -- that loaded the bases for senior Kelly Wiater.
"We intentionally walked Kisch twice," said Nance. "Luckily, we didn't get beat by it. She's a great player. It was a good move."
Facing a 2-0 pitch, Wiater was retired on an infield pop to shortstop Leah Secor for the second out of the inning.
"We thought maybe they might try a suicide squeeze there but on the other hand, I also thought she might be taking until she gets a strike," said Nance. "The next pitch looked like ball-three and she popped it up. That was big."
Three pitches later, the Rockets nearly won the game when Ahlers hooked a line drive down the left-field line.
However, the ball barely landed foul, much to the delight of Dionne.
"I was so happy that went foul," said Dionne, who tossed a 3-hitter for the Indians, who will face either Hampshire or Sterling in Saturday's sectional championship.
"I totally thought it was fair," said Maisto, who was coaching third base at the time. "I was like, 'keep going, keep going.' I think it was a couple inches away from winning the game."
Dionne recorded her ninth strikeout of the game on the next pitch as Marengo knocked off Burlington Central for the third time this season.
"This is what you get when you have two teams that are really good facing each other for the third time," said Nance. "What a game to watch, especially if you like 1-0 ballgames."
Kisch, who carried a 1-hitter into the sixth, suffered the tough-luck loss in her high school finale.
"I honestly felt we had it in the last inning," said Kisch, who will play at Upper Iowa next season. "You have to score to win but we played really well."
"It's my first team and I couldn't have asked for a better season to start with," said Maisto. "We gave them a good fight and we scared them a little bit, too."
Kisch, who fanned 4 while allowing 5 hits, enjoyed her time as a Rocket.
"I had a great four years at Central and I wouldn't want to change anything about them," she said. "I loved having my sister (Sarah) as a coach and having Coach Erica (Maisto) as well for my last year."