EAST PEORIA — Despite being a young team, the Nashville Hornettes weren't content with waiting for next year to take their shot at winning a state championship.
Freshman pitcher Maci Ingram struck out 11 and sophomore Kiley Pelker went 4-for-4 as the Nashville Hornettes beat the Williamsville Bullets 6-2 Saturday in the championship game of the Class 2A state softball tournament.
"I'm so proud of the girls for trying to seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity,'' said Nashville coach Dempsey Witte, who had no seniors on the field during the championship game. "It was a tough road, and you never know when you're going to have a chance to go back to the state tournament. It doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are. When you are here, you have to play your best ball and give it a shot.''
The Hornettes end the season with a 35-4 record.
The state title is the second in softball for the Hornettes, who won the Class A state championship in 2001 under coach Chad Malawy.
The Hornettes will be welcomed back to Nashville with a parade at 1:30 p.m. today. A reception will be held at 2 p.m. at the high school.
"No, I still don't believe it,'' Pelker said of not being able to imagine at the beginning of the season that the Hornettes would be state champions. "It has not hit me yet. I feel like I'm in summer ball right now. It's unreal. I can't believe it, and I'm sure no one else can either.''
Ingram allowed six hits. She worked out of a jam in the seventh inning as the Bullets had runners at second and third with one out.
The Hornettes had 10 hits off Williamsville pitcher Hayley Long (30-3).
Pelker scored three times. She had a double to go along with three singles.
"Kiley is one of the hardest workers I have ever been around,'' Witte said. "She stays after every day in practice. Takes extra cuts. Sometimes I have to tell her to go home and get out of the cage. I'm worried she is going to get tired. I tell her, 'That's the last bucket of balls, got to go home, Kiley.'''
Shaye Harre was 2-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs.
The Hornettes got a run in the first inning when Pelker hit a liner that tipped off the end of the third baseman's glove and went down the left-field line for a double.
Harre followed with a grounder to the shortstop, but the first baseman dropped the throw, allowing Pelker to score.
"I was really proud of the way we jumped on people,'' Witte said. "We scored a lot in the first inning in the postseason. It's a lot easier to play when you're ahead, and we've done that a lot in the postseason.''
The Hornettes made it 2-0 in the third inning when Pelker reached on an infield single and scored on a double by Harre.
Nashville pushed across three more runs in the fifth inning.
The Hornettes loaded the bases on single by Emily Thompson, a walk to Jordi Harre and a bunt single by Nicole Deering.
Pelker drove in a run with a single to left field, and Shaye Harre drove in two runs with a double over the left-fielder's head.
Leadoff hitter Brandi Donelly went 3-for-3 with three doubles for the Bullets.
All three of Ingram's walks came in the third inning as she loaded the bases for the Bullets.
Cleanup hitter Torey Sorensen then singled up the middle to drive home two runs with two outs.
Ingram struck out Kathryn Spenn to avoid any further damage.
"They are an amazing hitting team,'' Ingram said. "They have amazing batters and they were catching on to what I was throwing.''
Shaye Harre had gotten loose on the sideline between innings late in the game in the event Ingram needed to be removed.
"She had that one inning, the fifth inning or so, where she struggled a little bit, but we were always there right behind her helping her,'' Shaye Harre said.
The Hornettes got an insurance run in the seventh inning as Pelker reached on an infield single, went to second on a walk to Shaye Harre and scored on a single by Hannah Yung.
The Bullets (27-4) placed second in the state for the third time (1994 and 2005 were the others). They won the Class A state title in 1995.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.