Softball: Libertyville hangs on against Hersey
Libertyville senior catcher Sarah Hoyer said one of the key elements to Saturday's 6-4 win over Hersey in the championship game of the Class 4A Glenbrook South regional was her team's quick start in Glenview.
The No. 4-seeded Wildcats jumped in front 4-0 after one inning, led 6-1 after six innings and then held off a furious comeback by the No. 5 Huskies in the top of the seventh inning.
Wildcats junior pitcher Amanda Page (21-7) had a 1-hittter through 5 innings but Hersey's bats heated up late as the Huskies produced 8 hits in the final two innings.
It was a well-executed rundown that resulted in second baseman Sarah Bennett making the final putout of the game, allowing the Wildcats (25-7) to advance to the Warren sectional. They will face top-seeded Warren at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Hersey (22-7) scored 3 runs in the seventh before the Wildcats could celebrate their eighth regional title in program history, third in a row, and fourth under coach Elisa Wisniewski.
"We tell our players all the time, you have to play all 21 outs," Wisniewski said. "No team is going to fall over no matter how many runs they are down. You saw a great example of that by Hersey and how hard they fought at the end."
Hoyer (3-for-4) got her first of 3 hits in the first inning when she led off with single to center and stole second. Moments later, it was an RBI single by Alya Haddon, a 2-run double by Hannah Hiscox and a RBI single by Emily Hilldale that had the Wildcats ahead 4-0.
Libertyville threatened again in the second, getting three straight hits to load the bases with one out.
But Hersey center fielder Ria Patel caught a liner and then threw to second baseman Hannah Graff to double up the runner and end the inning.
The Huskies finally got on the board in the top of the sixth when pinch hitter Kylie Makuh, Makayla Tsagalis and Graff started the inning with consecutive singles to load the bases.
Makuh then alertly tagged up and came home on pitcher Brianna Luciano's floater to shallow left, on which shortstop Haddon made a nice catch.
Page struck out the next two batters to limit the damage.
Libertyville then gave her two more insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a back-to-back RBI singles by Hiscox and Hilldale.
They proved valuable as the Huskies punched across 3 runs, getting hits from Chloe Gordon and Renae Curtis to start the seventh.
After a sharp lineout to second by Asia Luboyeski, Makuh (2-for-2) came through again with an infield single to load the bases.
"Kylie has been dynamite as a pinch hitter," said Hersey coach Molly Freeman. "You don't know what you're going to get from a pinch hitter, but Kylie just has that mentality that she can get in there and do it. She has often come in and given us a little spark."
Graff (2-for-4) contributed a big 2-run single in the inning and Luciano (2-for-2) connected for her second hit.
The Huskies finished the season as Mid-Suburban League tri-champions and with a second-straight 20-win season.
"I just thought we weren't real aggressive at the beginning of the game and we didn't make a lot of adjustments," Freeman added. "We didn't force them to have to do a whole lot in the field. We waited until the sixth inning and you just can't do that.
"Overall, it was a fantastic season. Twenty wins again and in the worst of spring conditions. The girls always played hard, and with grace, and I'm really proud of them."
In addition to Hoyer, Hilldale (2-for-3), Hiscox (2-for-3) and Haddon (2-for-4) were also multiple hitters for Libertyville.
Hoyer and Hilldale are the lone Wildcats who have been a part of the last three regional crowns.
"It feels awesome," said Hoyer, who plans to study engineering at Colorado State. "It was a total team effort. I can't wait for the sectional. I'm super excited."
Wisniewski, whose roster of 12 includes eight first-year varsity players, was excited about her team's composure during Hersey's big finish.
"Hersey started hitting the ball harder at the end but our defense did a great job of staying calm under pressure," she said. "We worked out of the bases-loaded situation in the sixth inning with only 1 run and then had the same situation in the last inning. We did a fantastic job of executing a rundown in a pretty pressure situation so I'm really proud of my kids, and how they didn't panic there. Hats off to Hersey. That was a fantastic finish and a really fun game."