EAST PEORIA — Nashville sophomore Hannah Yung made the St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans pay for pitching around slugger Shaye Harre.
Yung hit a three-run homer in the first inning as the Hornettes upended the previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Spartans 5-2 Friday in the semifinals of the Class 2A state softball tournament.
The Spartans had walked Harre, who entered the game hitting .544 with six home runs, to get to Yung, who was hitting .372 with one home run.
"That's something we have dealt with all year, with people pitching around Shaye,'' Nashville coach Dempsey Witte said. "I'm so proud of Hannah Yung for battling through that. She had a great pitch to hit, and I think she's improved the most of anybody on our team. She is such a strong girl. She gets an outside pitch to drive, and she took it out.
"What a momentum booster for us right away. I think they were kind of shell-shocked after that.''
Nicole Deering reached on a throwing error by the shortstop to lead off the game.
Kiley Pelker bunted Deering to third and Harre was walked and stole second.
Yung then clubbed a 2-2 offering from St. Joseph-Ogden pitcher Elizabeth Everingham over the fence in right-center field.
"It was outside and low, and I like them like that,'' said Yung, whose improved hitting this season has led to her being moved up to the cleanup spot in the Hornettes' batting order.
Yung said when opposing teams walk Harre, it serves as motivation for her at the plate.
"They didn't think I could hit it, but I proved them wrong,'' Yung said.
The Hornettes (34-4) will play Williamsville (37-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the EastSide Center in East Peoria in the championship game of the Class 2A State Tournament.
Williamsville advanced with an 8-5 victory over Sherrard in its semifinal.
The Hornettes reached the title game for the second time. They won the Class A state championship in 2004.
"It means the world,'' Nashville sophomore shortstop Kiley Pelker said of playing for a state championship. "We never thought we'd get here at all. We just made it. We kept on trucking.''
The Hornettes will have no seniors on the field during the state title game.
"What I'm most proud of: From Day 1, we talked about a sense of urgency,'' Witte said. "Let's not wait until we are seniors and juniors.''
The Spartans entered the game averaging more than 12 runs per game, but Nashville freshman pitcher Maci Ingram limited them to five hits while striking out 14 and walking none.
"Maci threw a great game,'' Witte said. "She got that three-run lead, and boy, that helps everybody settle down. We knew their speed was going to be a big issue. They are a tough team to prepare for, and we had some different defenses we put in if we needed them, but she kept a lot of people off base, so we didn't have to worry about it too much.''
The Spartans will take a 40-1 record into today's third-place game against Sherrard.
"We never did get our short game going,'' St. Joseph-Ogden coach Randy Wolken said. "We tried a few times to bunt, we tried a few times to slap. They were fielding the slaps and the bunts were popping up. We weren't getting on top of the ball.
"That pitcher did a good job with the rise(ball) spin keeping us from bunting the ball.''
The Hornettes went up 5-0 on a two-run double by Pelker in the second inning.
Emily Thompson led off the second and reached on an error when the third baseman dropped her pop up after being bumped by the shortstop.
Thompson stole second and Nicole Deering walked after running up a 3-2 count.
Pelker then doubled to right field.
"It felt real good off the bat, and it was just awesome,'' Pelker said.
The Spartans scored their two runs on a two-run homer by Mickela Fleming in the fourth inning.
Fleming's homer to straightaway center scored Everingham, who had tripled to lead off the inning.
Ingram struck out seven of the last 13 batters she faced to keep the Spartans from mounting anymore of a comeback.
"We haven't been behind too many times, but we have been behind some,'' Wolken said. "We always know we are going to score some runs, so we are pretty confident about it.
"Maybe we were too confident. Maybe we thought we were going to score some runs and didn't get after it with a sense that we needed to do it right away.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.