High School Sports

Corby, Loveless lead Edwardsville to sectional softball title

With her high school career three outs away from coming to an end, Edwardsville senior Kallen Loveless kept the faith with the Tigers trailing Normal Community by a run in the 12th inning of their sectional final Saturday at Maxwell Park.

Edwardsville coach Lori Blade had a different perspective.

“It was gut-check time,’’ Blade would say later.

On a day when they squandered numerous scoring opportunities, the Tigers strung together three straight hits at just the right time — including a single by Rachel Anderson which scored Jordan Corby with the game-winning run — as Edwardsville rallied for a 3-2 win in the title game of the Normal West Softball Sectional.

Normal (26-7), which defeated Edwardsville 10-9 and 4-3 earlier in the regular season, seemed destined for a third victory over the Tigers, following freshman MacKenzie Leonard’s go-ahead two-out double in the top of the 12th. That gave the Lady Iron a 2-1 lead.

But when Edwardsville senior Ari Arnold’s pop fly tipped off Normal second baseman Rachel Zimmermann’s glove in fair territory down the right-field line for a lead-off double in the bottom of the12th, the Tigers (29-4) were in business.

Corby, whose solo home run in the fifth inning gave Edwardsville a short-lived 1-0 lead, then took a 2-1 pitch from Normal ace Ali Domkuski and hit a line drive which was just out of the reach of left fielder Brooke Beasley. Arnold scored on the play and Corby was on second with a game-tying double.

Anderson then capped the Tigers rally when her liner tipped off the glove of Normal center fielder Nikki Lewis. That sent Corby scampering home with the winning run, before being mobbed by her teammates

“What’s the saying? It’s never over till the fat lady sings,’’ a smiling Corby said. “I had faith we’d be able to come back. They (Normal) are a great team and they beat us twice during the season. But today we pulled together in the end and we got the big hits when they counted the most. I’m very happy. Especially for the seniors.’’

The win puts Edwardsville into the Normal Super-Sectional on Monday at Illinois State University, where it will take on (Frankfort) Lincoln-Way East at 4:30 p.m. Lincoln-Way East defeated Plainfield Central 2-1 on Saturday at the Joliet Central Sectional.

But following the come-from-behind win, Blade and the Tigers weren’t thinking about Lincoln-Way East.

Getting a complete game win from Loveless and some clutch hitting at the end of a near three-hour marathon, Edwardsville was going to enjoy this one for the rest of the day.

“We’re excited to be playing on Monday. But we’re going to relax and enjoy this win for a little while,’’ Blade said. “Two very good programs were out here today and I know that neither one deserved to lose today. Both teams had a lot of opportunities, both teams had good pitching and played good defense. I’m just glad we were the home team and had the last at bat.

“It was just gut-check time and these kids stepped up. I’m awfully happy to be playing and coaching these kids for at least two more days.”

While the Edwardsville offense came alive just in time, the story of the first 11 innings was the pitching performances of Loveless and Domkuski.

Although, both teams threatened throughout, the two aces made big pitches when necessary. Edwardsville left 11 runners stranded on base while Normal had 10.

“It’s just a case of making good pitches. Plus the defense made some great plays behind me. I think we had one double play, maybe two,’’ said Loveless, her pitching arm packed in ice following the game. “I have all the respect in the world for her (Domkuski). She’s a great pitcher.’’

Corby was one of only a few Tigers to get to Domkuski.

Her home run in the fifth inning sailed over the left-field fence and gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“I’m not a home-run hitter. This was my first one of the year and I hit it good. I knew it had a chance when I hit it.’’ Corby said.

The Lady Iron tied the game at 1 in the top of the sixth on a two-out single by freshman Reece Johnsson. It would stay that way until the 12th.

Normal coach Bob Grimes questioned Arnold’s double, thinking the ball had landed in foul territory.

“Now I’m a long ways away from the play, but from where I’m at and where I see her feet, her feet were fair but she was reaching over and that’s foul territory,” Grimes said. “That didn’t cost us the game because we did have other chances. But it put a different perspective on the game.

“I’m not taking anything away from them (Edwardsville), because they are a great team and have a great program, But in the last inning they hit three balls that tip off our players’ gloves. I’m sorry, but there is a little luck involved there as well. Whoever said softball/baseball is a game of inches was right on the money with this one today.’’

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com or 618-239-2661.

How it went

Edwardsville fifth inning: Jordan Corby solo home run. Edwardsville 1, Normal 0

Normal sixth inning: Mack Leonard single, Ali Domkuski single, Reece Johnson RBI single. Edwardsville 1, Normal 1.

Normal 12th inning: Brooke Beasley walked, Rachel Zimmerman singled, Mack :Leonard doubled to left field, Beasley scored. Normal 2, Edwardsville 1.

Edwardsville 12th inning: Ari Arnold doubled to lead off; Jordan Corby doubled; Arnold scored; Rachel Anderson singled, Corby scored. Final: Edwardsville 3, Normal 2.

WP - Kallen Loveless, LP-Ali Domkuski.

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com or 618-239-2661.

How it went

Edwardsville fifth inning: Jordan Corby solo home run. Edwardsville 1, Normal 0

Normal sixth inning: Mack Leonard single, Ali Domkuski single, Reece Johnson RBI single. Edwardsville 1, Normal 1.

Normal 12th inning: Brooke Beasley walked, Rachel Zimmerman sacrifice bunt, Mack :Leonard doubled to left field, Beasley scored. Normal 2, Edwardsville 1.

Edwardsville 12th inning: Ari Arnold doubled to lead off; Jordan Corby doubled; Arnold scored; Rachel Anderson singled, Corby scored. Final: Edwardsville 3, Normal 2.

WP - Kallen Loveless, LP-Ali Domkuski.

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