Softball: Geneva's surprising run continues with upset of Downers Grove South
Sam Keller had witnessed enough of this getting blanked by Downers Grove South stuff, so with one swing of her mighty bat she changed everything.
The 14th-seeded Vikings were trailing the No. 2 Mustangs and ace Randi McKay 1-0 in the top of the sixth inning of the Class 4A Plainfield North sectional championship Friday afternoon. The underdog Vikings, who needed 12 innings on Wednesday to advance to the final, had seen their 2018 campaign close out with a shutout loss to these very same Mustangs.
But Keller's blast over the center-field wall tied the game, gave Geneva (18-11) a big lift, and then Keller eventually scored the winning run 2-1, in the top of the 10th after a leadoff single.
With two outs the Vikings shortstop scored from first base on a high pop fly that was dropped just behind the infield.
When pitcher Shelly Deisz retired Downers Grove South 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th, Geneva had claimed its first sectional championship.
"That was honestly like the biggest thing," Keller said of her game-turning home run. "Kind of what I dreamed about as a little kid. That one home run that turns around the game."
After knocking off top-seeded Yorkville earlier in the tournament, these Vikings worked extra innings twice this week to move on to Monday's Marist supersectional against Marist.
"Honestly it's really surprising because we're a 14th seed. To beat the 1 seed and the 2 seed, nobody really expected us to get this far. It's crazy honestly," said Keller, who went 3-for-5.
But Keller's homer was the biggest blow of the day. McKay (22-3) was mowing down Geneva and appeared ready to extend the Mustangs' winning streak to 26 games.
"We needed an ice breaker. We didn't score off them last year in the regional final when we played. We needed something," said Geneva coach Greg Dierks, who plans to step down after this historic season, his 30th at the helm. "Really from that point on, I felt it was a different vibe. We gained momentum as the game went on."
The Mustangs had taken a 1-0 lead when McKay singled with one out in the fourth and scored on a close play at the plate after Kaitlyn Wilson doubled to right field. But that was the only run Deisz allowed all day. She scattered 8 hits over 10 innings and picked up a critical third out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game.
"They capitalized on a mistake and you know, we just haven't hit the last three games like we normally do. That's what cost us," Mustangs coach Jim Cushing said. "We're a way better hitting team … what are you going to do?
"They made the plays. Both teams got out of jams. Give credit to them, they fought like (heck) just like we did."
Wilson, who led Downers South in home runs this spring, will not let Friday's outcome erase what was a special spring.
"Today, I don't know," she said, trying to describe the tough loss. "We came out fighting, we were up against the fence and so into it. It just didn't turn out how we wanted it to.
"But it was a great season. 31-3. We just didn't get that special hit we needed to break everything open. We had such a good season and this is such a good group. I'm so privileged to get to play with every single one of them."