The Dupo Tigers earned their first trip to the Class 2A State Softball Tournament in seven years with a late power surge in Monday’s Memorial Day Athens Super-Sectional.
It took the Tigers three innings to get their first hit, but it sparked the offense to an eventual 10-5 win over perennial powerhouse St. Joseph Ogden.
“We played one hell of a game,” said Dupo head coach Greg Pennock. “When you look at St. Joseph, they are always around, they have an excellent program. We are super locked in right now.”
Dupo (21-5) hasn’t been to the IHSA State Tournament since 2009. They’ll face Elgin St. Edward (26-8) at the Eastside Centre in East Peoria Friday at 3 p.m.
Tiger pitcher Jessica Stansch ran into some trouble early on, allowing two runs on three hits in the first.
St. Joseph’s freshman Ashtyn Cromwell meanwhile retired eight straight batters before Dupo would get its first hit.
“The game looked grim at times, it was a real grind,” Pennock said. “They were nervous and had to get the jitters out there. But this is a very motivated group that plays with a lot of tenacity.”
Dupo was down 3-2 at the end of four innings, but plated four runs in each the fifth and sixth innings to take a lead that would never be relinquished.
Dupo junior Megan Brown had a big day, going 2-3 with a home run, double, walk, and four runs batted in.
“(Stansch) gave up two runs early but didn't give up in a spot where some would falter,” said Brown, who has committed to playing at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. “We were able to get the bats going and come out with a great team effort.”
The Tigers didn’t look back once they got their first hit in the third inning.
With two out, Caitlyn Brizi and Alyssa Strubberg each reached on hits. Cromwell then walked the next two to force home Brizi with Dupo’s first run.
Dupo picked up another run in the fouth on an RBI double by Junior Stormy Sellers.
St. Joseph got its third run in the bottom of the fourth on a groundout.
The wheels started to come off for Cromwell and the Spartans in the top half of the fifth. Both Skylure Barlow and Rachael Donald reached base on consecutive errors. Taylor Esmon then hit an infield single to load the bases.
Brown hit a ground-rule double to plate two runs and give the Tigers their first lead, 4-3. The hit prompted a pitching change by St Joseph, but two more runs would reach home on a groundout and passed ball.
Dupo was far from finished.
With two out, Skylure Barlow doubled down the third base line, followed by an RBI single up the middle by Donald.
Esmon then tripled off the right fielder’s glove, to drive home Donald. Brown cinched it with a two-run home run over the left field fence.
St. Joseph’s scratched out two runs in the seventh, but Dupo finished the game with 10 runs on 10 hits.
For Dupo, Brizi finished 2-4 with an RBI. Esmon tripled and drove a run home.
Stansch lasted the full seven despite the rocky start. She allowed 10 hits while striking out three.
For St. Joseph, Andrea Crousey was 2-4 with a double and two RBI; Savanah Smith had a two-run pinch hit single in the seventh.