Softball: Marengo upends Burlington Central for regional crown
Burlington Central's softball team didn't lack scoring opportunities Friday in its 2-0 loss to Marengo in the Class 3A Central regional championship game on Rocket Hill.
But the defending state champion Indians, who won their 12th straight regional title and 13th in 14 years, played flawless defense and took advantage of its scoring chances to advance to their own sectional semifinals next Tuesday against the winner of Saturday's Rockford Boylan sectional final between Freeport and Rock Falls.
The Indians (26-4) scratched out a run in the first inning then added an unearned insurance run in the fifth off Central senior Julia Barnes, who allowed just 5 hits.
"She did a great job," said BC coach Erica Snyder of Barnes. "We wanted to go in and out on their batters and I know we hit a couple but she worked the inside corner really well and we really couldn't have asked for more from her."
Marengo jumped ahead in the bottom of the first when Grace Houghton's 2-out single to right field brought home leadoff hitter Hannah Ritter, who beat out an infield hit then stole second and third.
The Rockets (18-6) had their first golden opportunity to tie the game in the fourth inning when Danielle Yurgil drew a 1-out walk, Lindsay Jamrozek singled and Maissie Rabe sacrificed them to second and third. After a walk to Peyton Curits loaded the bases, Marengo senior Riley Connell got Sarah Schmitt to line out to first to end the threat.
Marengo then played small ball to add a run in the fifth.
Anna Walsweer led off the inning getting hit by a pitch. Houghton sacrificed her to second and when Central made a throwing error on Susie Nawrot's bunt, Houhgton was able to scoot home to make it 2-0.
Central didn't give in, though.
In the top of the sixth, the Rockets got a leadoff single from Reili Gardner, who stole second and went to third on a 1-out groundout. But Connell, who struck out one, walked two and allowed 5 hits on the day, got Rabe to ground to third to end that threat.
In the top of the seventh BC had a chance to tie or win the game when the Rockets loaded the bases with two outs.
With one out, Connell hit Schmitt with a pitch. Hanaa Nkhikhssi blooped a single over the second baseman's head and Sarah Kinney laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. After a four-pitch walk to Barnes, though, Connell got Gardner to ground out hard to short to end the game.
"What a great job by our pitcher and our great defense," said 11th-year Marengo coach Dwain Nance. "We don't strike out many people so we have to play great defense all the time. Give credit to Burlington; they did a great job. Julia did a nice job and they had some nice hits."
Snyder was proud of how her team fought.
"They didn't give up," she said. "They fought to the very end and you can't ask for anything more than that. We had opportunities. It's not like we didn't put ourselves in situations to score. The softball gods just weren't in our favor today but they fought and left everything out there.
"From start to finish this season I feel we improved. They were great girls to coach, great athletes and good kids."