It was only fitting that two of the best Class 2A softball teams in the state engaged in an extra-inning affair for the third time this season Saturday.
This time, it was Nashville’s turn to shine.
In a contest that lasted nearly three hours, Karly Stanowski hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 15th inning to help Nashville earn a sectional championship with a 2-1 victory over Carterville.
Nashville ace Maci Ingram gave up the tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning. She bounced back and threw another eight scoreless frames.
“Oh my God, it was just a rush of emotions,” Ingram said, regarding Stanowki’s game-winning hit. “I was just so proud of Karly for putting one in play. We’re just both so competitive, and we’re both such strong teams. It’s always a battle. Nobody’s giving up. Everybody’s fighting until the end.”
Ingram and Carterville’s Avery English were both outstanding in the pitching circle. Ingram allowed four hits and fanned 18 batters. English gave up three hits and struck out 15.
In the bottom of the 15th inning, Daley Buchanan reached first base on a throwing error with one out. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Brooke Burcham. That’s when Stanowski knocked the run-scoring single into shallow left field with two outs.
“We played them 10 innings, played them 12 innings, and then it took us 15 to finally beat them,” said Nashville coach Dempsey Witte. “I’m so proud of our fight, though. Our girls just kept battling through it. It’s a shame somebody’s got to lose a game like that. I think it’s fair to say we’re both even teams. We’re happy to win the one in the postseason.”
After two Nashville batters were hit by pitches in the third inning, Mackenzie McFeron hit an RBI single to left field. Nashville grabbed a 1-0 lead and it held up until the seventh inning.
Carterville (33-2) was down to its final two outs when Kylee Rock smacked a double into the gap in right center. Montana Taylor followed with an RBI double that hit off the fence in left field to tie the game 1-1.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of one of the best softball games that has been played in Southern Illinois in I don’t know how long,” said Carterville coach Brett Diel, who coached his final game on Saturday after being promoted to athletic director and assistant principal. “Watching two all-state caliber pitchers and two great teams giving it everything they’ve got is incredible.”
Stanowski’s walk-off single was important for Nashville at the time. Heavy rains moved in shortly after the game ended, which might have suspended the conclusion of the game until Monday.
“What a big at-bat for a freshman,” Witte said of Stanowski. “I felt like our freshmen really grew up. We start four, sometimes five freshmen. I like how we kept our composure, and we just found a way to survive.”
After English gave up the RBI single in the third inning, she didn’t allow another hit until the 14th frame.
“She’s been incredible all year and really all of her career,” Diel said. “I can’t say enough about the fight of our team, just always until the very last out. I’m just proud of them. You tip your cap to Nashville.”
The Hornettes (36-2) play Fairfield at the Johnston City Super-Sectional, which takes place at
4:30 p.m. Monday.