The Herrin Tigers clinched the championship of the Columbia Class 3A Sectional with a 4-0 victory over the host Eagles on Saturday.
Herrin (29-4) advances to the 3A Mattoon super-sectional finals at 4:30 p.m. Monday. The Tigers will play the winner of the Chatham (Glenwood) Sectional game between Chatham (Glenwood) and Rochester.
“When I came here last year we talked about changing the culture and these girls have done it,” said Tigers head coach Jim Kowzan. “I’m just so thankful that they’ve been able to take me along on the ride with them.”
The game remained scoreless in the seventh inning when Tigers No. 9 hitter, Beth Meadows, came around to score the game’s first run after a two-run double by Tori Schullian.
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Meadows and Lexi Childers both worked the count and drew two out walks to set up Schullian’s go ahead double.
“I just knew I had to be clutch and get the hit for my team,” said Schullian. “I had a feeling it was going to be an outside pitch, that’s all I’d seen.”
“That’s been us all year long,” said Kowzan. “If the bottom of the order can get something going for us and we get back to the top of the order that’s when we’re at our toughest.”
An RBI double by Makayla Smothers and an RBI single by Raegen Gosha extended the Tigers seventh inning four-run rally.
Calli Sutcliffe was the winning pitcher for Herrin, allowing six hits in the shutout.
Makayla Smothers went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI and Tori Schullian finished 2-for-4 with the go ahead two run double in the seventh.
With two doubles on the afternoon, Makayla Smothers breaks the IHSA single-season record for doubles in a season.
“They could’ve hung their heads but they didn’t,” said Eagles head coach Rhonda Major. “They fought until the end and we just had a couple of things that didn’t go our way. It’s been a great season and I’m just proud of them and the way they battled.”
Kaelyn Rheinecker took the loss in the pitcher’s circle. Eagles senior Courtney Weilbacher picked up her 200th career hit, a first in school history. Lexi Touchette finished 1-for-3 with a double to end the Eagles (28-5) season.
“They had a great season and we have a lot of returning talent for next year,” said Major.