A five-run rally, most of it with two out, put an end to the Dupo Tigers’ hope of their first state softball championship.
Carterville scored all but one of its runs in that decisive third inning to defeat Dupo, 6-3, and capture the Illinois Class 2A title.
"I'm a little emotional, really excited," said Carterville head coach Will Capie, standing near the edge of the pitcher's circule after the game. "Dupo gave us everything we could handle. They are very atheltic and very good on the bases. Fortunately we were able to pound out enough hits to come out on top of this one."
Carterville (32-3) qualified for the state finals just once before, when it won the 2A championship in 2008.
It also was the Tiger's second trip to state, but their highest finish. Dupo placed fourth in 2009.
Coach Greg Pennock acknowledged the disappointment of the loss, but said his team eventually would come to appreciate what it achieved in winning the state second-place trophy.
"I'm disappointed for the kids, but they'll be OK," he said. "It hurts a little today, but considering the work they put in and how far they've come, they'll come to appreciate the experience they've had together. And let me tell you something else: it's no shame to lose to that team over there. That's one fine softball team."
Senior pitcher Jessica Stansch, who baffled St. Edward hitters in the Tigers' semifinal victory Friday, got through the Carterville lineup once unscathed. She didn’t make it through a second time, though, allowing five runs on five hits as the Lady Lions batted around in the decisive third.
Dupo (21-6) rallied for three in the fifth to cut the lead in half on a two-run home run by Skylure Barlow and RBI single by Amber Mobbs.
But Lady Lions’ senior ace Avery English was brought in from second base to relieve starter Baleigh Koester with one out and two on. She struck out five of the 11 Dupo batters she faced.
"Baleigh Koester is somebody is an east and west pitcher and a hard thrower," Capie said. "She and Avery make a good one-two punch because, with Avery, we can change eye level and change speeds a little bit. It's a very difficult adjustment for hitters to make."
Pennock had said during the week heading into the tournament that games between equally-skilled teams would come down to whichever team got the breaks.
"Carterville earned this and deserve the championship because they beat us to day," Pennock said. "But you can look at a couple of things that, if they break the other way change the complexion of the game. That's what makes softball a great game, but they went against us today."
It was a tough break that sparked Carterville’s third-inning rally.
Stansch walked Becky Peterson to lead off, then English roped a pitch into shallow left field. Alyssa Strubberg made an aggressive attempt to make a shoe-string catch, but the hit skipped under her glove and rolled to the fence for an RBI triple.
English was later nipped at the plate trying to score for the second out. But with two on, Sydney Monje cleared the bases with a single. A double by Koester and an RBI single by Sophie Laird opened the lead to 5-0.
Pennock turned to Brown, who had pitched just 18 innings all season, to open the fourth inning.
"I wanted to get Jessica past that second time through their order before making the switch," Pennock said. "It's just one of those things. Ally was aggressive and the ball just got under her glove. Nothing more she could do, but if that ball carries another foot and she makes that catch, it's a different game."
Carterville scratched out another run on an RBI single from Megan Barrett. But Brown allowed just one hit and a a walk the rest of the way while striking out three.
Strubberg started the Dupo comeback bid with a one-out walk in the fifth and Barlow followed with a home run over the fence in left-center field.
Donald doubled, prompting Capie to bring in English and stop the bleeding. Mobbs got the Tigers' only hit off English, a double to score Donald.
Strubberg started the game with her fourth bunt hit of the tournament and later scored her fourth run. Donald had two hits and a walk. Mobbs finished 1-2 with an RBI.
For Carterville Barrett was 1-2 and scored a run after reaching on a fielder's choice in the third. Taylor, Monjie, Koester and Laird each had RBI hits. Peterson walked twice from the eight spot in the order and scored two runs. Designated player Alicia Dawson, batting ninth, had two sacrifice bunts and a single.