Softball: Defending state champ Huntley falls in state semifinals
PEORIA -- Huntley's Reese Hunkins gave the ball a ride to deep right field to start the top of the seventh inning, the Red Raiders' hardest hit ball against Marist's Abby Dunning, but the ball died a few feet short of the fence.
Dunning, a senior, struck out the next two batters to complete the no-hitter with 13 strikeouts and send the RedHawks to a 1-0 win in the Class 4A state semifinals and into the state championship. Marist will play Lincoln-Way Central at 5 p.m. at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex.
Huntley (34-7), which saw its 15-game winning streak end, will play Minooka for third place at 4 p.m.
The Raiders were trying to win their second consecutive state title after winning their first in 2019. There was no season last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marist (37-1) will go for its first state title since 2015.
Dunning walked three batters and hit a batter, allowing only one Raiders base runner to reach second base -- when Katie Mitchell battled back from a 0-2 count, worked it full and fouled off eight straight pitches before taking a walk to start the top of the fourth.
Mitchell then stole second but Dunning retired the next three batters on a strikeout, popup and groundout.
"She throws hard," Huntley coach Mark Petryniec said. "When you're facing one of the best in the state and probably one of the best in the country, our offensive approach was to put the ball in play. They're good, they're really good, but we're really proud of our girls. We're sitting here complimenting our girls, and we just got no-hit. Our girls did everything that we asked them to do."
Marist scored its only run against Bower in the third on an infield error, which allowed Easton Lotus (2 for 3), who had an infield hit and stole second, to score with two outs. Bower gave up only five hits, striking out eight and walking one. She stranded seven runners in her six innings of work.
Huntley made some spectacular defensive plays, including a diving catch in center field by Clara Hudgens in the fourth and a lunging grab by third baseman Madi Smith to keep the RedHawks from scoring in the fifth.
"We gave it our all," Bower said. "We cut our strikeouts in half and we put the ball in play, but they just so happened to make the plays. We're just going to go hang out, eat some lunch, regroup and just have some fun. It's our last game, we might as well win it."
Lindsay Morgan worked two of Huntley's three walks against Dunning, and Reicher also reached base on a hit-by-pitch.
"This has been our goal all season, so we're one step closer," Dunning said. "[Huntley is] a great team and they've got great hitters. I couldn't take it easy on any batter, for sure, and just battled through."