A pair of future Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars pitched against each other with advancement to the Class 1A State Softball Tournament up for grabs.
New Athens senior Abby Marlow pitched well enough to win, but the breaks bounced in direction of Trico's sophomore, who led the Pioneers to the 3-0 victory and the Du Quoin Super-Sectional title.
Jade Kranawetter struck out nine New Athens batters but it was a pair of timely double plays that changed the set the game's trajectory and sent Trico to its second state tournament in three years.
"I definitely thought we had the momentum coming in and they made that double play early," said Marlow, who won 56 games in her high school career. "We tried plenty of times to take the momentum back and whenever we felt like we did, Trico just somehow ended up a step ahead of us."
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The Yellow Jackets came out aggressive after a nearly hour-and-a-half rain delay that started immediately after introductions. Senior Alina Lance roped a single to left, Jenna Alfeldt rolled a hit between third and short and Marlow walked to load the bases with none out.
Kranawetter got her first strikeout then Casey Wilderman squared up an outside pitch with a line-drive to the right side, but Trico second basemen Jaelin King ranged to her right to make the catch, then double Lance off of third to end the inning.
That play may have set the tone for the remainder of the game, both head coaches said.
Kranawetter proceeded to strike out the next four batters she faced.
"Jade got a break that first inning when we got a line drive, but she settled down after that and she did a tremendous job," said Trico coach Andrew Franklin, who secured his 200th career win in a sectional final win Tuesday.
It wasn't the last time the breaks beat the Yellow Jackets either. Sixth inning — same batter, same defender.
With what was then the tying run on second base, Wilderman hit a line drive to King who this time stepped on second for another inning-ending double play.
"It's incredibly important to get that first run across," said New Athens' coach Conrad Widdersheim. "We might have been a little too aggressive in both those instances, but then the girls knew how much we needed to score there.
"Maybe it was bad luck. You know, a ball just five feet farther or a couple inches farther and it would be a different ball game."
Trico, which improved to 31-2 with the win, advances to a state semifinal game against Hardin (Calhoun), 38-2, and junior pitcher Grace Baalman.
Trico scored the only run it needed in the fourth when Emily Bauersachs doubled with one out and scored on a single by freshman Katie Gale.
"How about my freshman getting a big hit in a big spot?" Franklin said. "I couldn't be more proud of her."
The Pioneers added two more in the bottom of the sixth when Danyelle Eilers scored on a wild pitch and Lexi Smith delivered a two-out RBI single to score Bauersachs.
New Athens put its first two batters on base in the fourth inning, but Kranwetter escaped trouble with an infield fly and a pair of strikeouts.
Kranwetter allowed just four New Athens hits while striking out nine and issuing three walks, all to Marlow. She stranded six Yellow Jacket base runners.
"She and I have talked and kind of bonded a little over being future teammates at SIUE," said Marlow. "That actually motivated me a little coming into the game."
Marlow also struck out nine batters, while allowing six Trico hits and issuing two walks.
"We are going to sorely miss Abby next year because, not just her ability and her great talent, but also her leadership," Widdersheim said. "She's been a huge leader for us these last four years coming in as a freshman. She was a leader from the start."
Lance, Alfeldt, Sophie Cooper and Taylor Junge had hits for New Athens.
Bauersachs and Gale had two hits each for Trico. Sydney Levan and Smith had the other hits for the Pioneers.