Softball: Dionne, Marengo end Burlington Central's run
BELVIDERE -- There are days when you just have to tip your cap to the other team.
Saturday was one of those days for the Burlington Central softball team.
And the Rockets not only had to tip their caps to Marengo, but specifically to Indians' sophomore right-hander Mariah Dionne.
Dionne got out of a big-time jam in the top of the first inning then proceeded to no-hit the Rockets the rest of the way and Marengo came up with enough offense against BC junior Emily Kisch to beat the Rockets 4-0 in the championship game of the Class 3A Belvidere North sectional.
Marengo (33-6) will take on Wauconda in the Northwestern supersectional at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Sharon J. Drysdale Field in Evanston. The sectional title is the Indians' first since they finished second in Class 3A in 2012, the year after they won the state championship. Marengo lost in the last two sectional finals.
For the Rockets, it was the end of an improbable run through the postseason for a team that entered the state tournament with a .500 record.
"We're extremely proud of these girls," said first-year BC coach Kyle Molik. "They've brought a lot of pride to the community and they've been a great group to be around."
The tone of Saturday's game was set in the first inning.
Senior Courtni Neubauer led off by beating out an infield hit for the Rockets and with one out, sophomore Kristina Ahlers drew a walk and senior Kassidy Gaylord singled to left field to load the bases. But Dionne got the next two hitters on strikeouts, then she played a key role in Marengo grabbing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.
With one out, senior Jessica Turner reached on a throwing error and senior Illinois recruit Veronica Ruelius laced a double to the fence in right-center to score Turner, with Ruelius taking third on the throw home. Dionne then singled up the middle to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
"Getting out of the first inning with those two strikeouts was really huge," said Marengo coach Dwain Nance, "but the second part of that was coming right back and scoring."
Dionne was virtually untouchable the rest of the way. She struck out 7, walked 1 and hit a batter and 9 outs came via pop ups or medium deep fly balls.
The Rockets (19-17) only got two runners as far as second base after the first inning. Alyssa Mish was hit with a pitch and went to second on Kelly Wiater's sacrifice bunt in the second inning but Dionne got a strikeout and a groundout to end that scoring chance.
In the fourth, Gretchen Schrubbe reached on an error and went to second on a sac bunt by Jill Neisendorf but the rally was ended when Scrubbe was called out for leaving base early and Dionne got another strikeout for the third out.
"You definitely have to tip your hat to Marengo," Molik said. "We get the bases loaded in the first inning and (Dionne) Ks two in a row. The rest of the game she induces pop ups and groundouts. They executed when they had to."
"She wasn't throwing extra hard but her ball was really moving today," said Nance of Dionne.
The Indians added 2 insurance runs in the fifth. Dionne singled then was safe at second on an error on Rebecca Schultz's fielder's choice grounder. Amber Proberts then singled to score pinch runner Rachael Jasinski and with one out Aubrey Wzientek's sacrifice fly plated courtesy runner Nina Reed.
"They played really well," said Gaylord of the Indians, who beat Central three times this season. "They had key players who had great hits."
Kisch, who had allowed only 1 run in 21 postseason innings and had thrown back-to-back shutouts, gave up 8 hits, no earned runs and had 6 strikeouts and 2 walks.
"Emily had another great game," Molik said. "Regardless if the runs are earned or unearned we have to score, but Mariah pitched well."
The Rockets graduate four seniors and with Kisch returning to the circle, the future looks bright.
"It's been a learning experience for myself and one you hope to grow from," said Molik of his first year coaching softball. "I hope the girls grew as well. We lose four great seniors we're very proud of. We have a strong core coming back and expectations will be high."
As they were this year, although it took awhile for things to come to fruition.
"After that first game (a 10-0 loss to Kaneland) we knew we needed to pick it up as a team," said Gaylord, who will play at Elgin Community College next year. "The four seniors said we need to make sure this is a tight team, especially because we were so young. It ended up being the best of my four years on varsity. The girls were all great."