CHAMPAIGN — The Dupo Tigers were one out away from earning a trip to the Class 2A State Softball Tournament, but Monticello pitcher Chrissy Gadbury canceled their reservation.
Gadbury's two-run homer in the top of the seventh-inning lifted the Sages over the Tigers 2-1 Monday in the Champaign Super-Sectional.
The Tigers led 1-0 with two outs in the top of the seventh when Monticello leadoff hitter Samantha Valentine hit a grounder that Dupo shortstop Sylure Barlow dropped after it took a tough hop.
Barlow picked up the ball and threw to first, but it was too late to catch the speedy Valentine.
Gadbury then hit a towering drive to left-center field off a 1-0 offering from Dupo freshman pitcher Megan Brown that carried over the fence at Eichelberger Field on the campus of the University of Illinois.
"I did not think it was over at all," Gadbury said. "I thought, 'Oh God, I just ended my career on a flyball to left field.' Then I saw that it went over and I just went crazy. That was awesome. I can't believe I did it."
Neither could the Tigers, who were unable to answer in the bottom of the seventh even after Barlow singled with one out.
"When you have only one run, you never have it (in hand)," Dupo coach Greg Pennock said. "I've been doing this long to know better than that. They stepped up and did what they had to do. We squandered a few opportunities. We'd like to have a few better at-bats, but it's been a good year."
The Tigers end their season with 30-7. They'll bring back almost their entire starting lineup next season.
"That will be our goal," Pennock said of getting back to the super-sectional next season. "Our goal will be to be back, and do that best we can. We had a pretty good run with a bunch of young kids playing, so hopefully they'll give themselves a chance to do it again next year."
The Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a solo homer by Rachael Donald.
Donald's drive hit off the scoreboard in left center.
"It was a rise ball, and I didn't really feel comfortable throwing rise balls to their No. 3 and 4 hitters because I knew they were very good," Gadbury said. "She called a riseball and I just didn't get it high enough, I guess, and she took it out. I thought the next one was going out, too, and that was off a rise ball, too. The rest of the innings I threw no more rise balls to those people."
Brown followed Donald with double that hit near just short of the fence in left-center field.
Taylor Esmon followed with a single to put runners at first and third, but the Tigers failed to score any more runs.
The Tigers managed only two more hits the rest of the game off Gadbury, who stuck out six and walked none.
"Our kids were just out front of a lot of stuff and we just didn't have a lot of good swings against her," Pennock said of Gadbury. "From the side she looks hirable, but obviously there is something going on there. We didn't get many good swings. She did a nice job."
Brown was the hard-luck loser. She gave up five hits and no earned runs, while striking out five and walking two.
The Sages (30-4) advance to play the winner of the DeKalb Super-Sectional, either Rock Island Alleman (29-6) or Brimfield (29-3), at 3 p.m. Friday at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria in the semifinal round of the Class 2A State Tournament.
Gadbury said the Sages have had several comeback wins this season, and Pennock said his scouting report on them told him the same thing.
"They've done that about 20 times," Pennock said. "I know some friends who have been playing them, and I don't want to say, 'Charmed' as disrespectful because you can't do it that many times and be lucky. Obviously, they are good. We knew coming in they were going to be confident if it was close. And we didn't put them away. And, they came back and got us."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.