Prep softball: Ellison Hallahan keeps hot streak alive, helps Sycamore down Dixon for regional crown

Sycamore's Ellison Hallahan (right) is congratulated by a teammate after hitting a grand slam Thursday, May 23, 2024, during their Class 3A regional final against Dixon at Rochelle High School.

ROCHELLE – Ellison Hallahan said she isn’t quite sure why she swings such a hot stick at Rochelle.

“I’m going to go with it’s purple,” Hallahan said, “and I like that color.”

Whatever the reason, Hallahan hit her fourth home run of the season at the Hubs’ home field Thursday, helping Sycamore top Dixon 14-1 to claim the Class 3A Rochelle Regional championship.

With those four home runs, Hallahan is 8 for 11 with 17 RBIs and nine runs scored in three games at Rochelle this year, including Tuesday’s 22-0 win over Rochelle in the semifinal. Her grand slam Thursday turned a 6-0 lead into a 10-0 lead in the second inning.

“Rochelle is probably going to try to get her to transfer here because she has like 90 RBIs on this diamond,” Sycamore coach Jill Carpenter said. “She loves to hit here. She just put another really good swing on the ball, and that’s a big hit for us.”

The Spartans scored two in the first after Dixon starter Abby Hicks walked Addie McLaughlin and Addi Armstrong to start the game.

Hicks got the next two batters, but Kaitlyn Williams hit a two-out single to stake Sycamore to a 2-0 lead.

“It’s the postseason,” Carpenter said. “You want to be able to score first, you want to be able to take pressure off your pitchers and your defense. And so that was a big two-out single by Kait.”

Sycamore exploded for eight runs in the second, half of them on Hallahan’s bomb. Meanwhile, Bella Jacobs made her second straight start for the Spartans (31-3), pitching three perfect innings for the win.

Down 14-0 in the top of the fourth, Dixon (9-19) scored its only run. Addison Dierschow, usually a starter, came on to relieve Jacobs and allowed hard-hit singles to Bailey Tegeler and Kennedy Haenitsch. Two force outs at third kept runners at first and second, but an error brought home a run.

Dixon also went without its regular starter, opting for Hicks with Allie Abell coming in to pitch the third.

“Allie was hit pretty hard last night [in a 9-8 win against Freeport] so we went with Abby to start off with,” Dixon coach Candi Rogers said. “We feel Allie came back in and finished up strong. And we started hitting toward the end there a little bit.”

Every Sycamore starter had at least one hit and scored once. McLaughlin had two hits and scored three times, with Armstrong also scoring three runs. Kairi Lantz had two hits, two RBIs and scored once, while Brighton Snodgrass had two hits, two RBIs and a run scored.

Hallahan finished 1 for 2 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

“We’ve worked really hard this season and everyone has come a really long way,” Hallahan said. “It’s kind of all just come together.”

Rogers said only three players will graduate from this year’s squad, and she expects good reinforcements from the lower levels.

“We started off a little rough; some days we would play great defensively, some days we would hit great,” Rogers said. “We just kind of had a hard time bringing them all together. But here in the last half of the season we really picked it up and come together as a team.”

Sycamore won its second regional in a row, fourth in the last five postseasons and 15th in school history. The Spartans face either Kaneland or Woodstock North in a Class 3A Sycamore Sectional semifinal on Wednesday

After packing more than 30 games into barely an eight-week regular season, the Spartans will have six days off before their next game.

“The postseason everything gets so stretched out and you’re so used to go, go, go,” Carpenter said. “It is an adjustment. We’ll give the kids a day off, they’ll freak out about it, and we’ll have the pitchers throw a little trying to keep them sharp and we’ll prepare the best we can for whoever it is we have to face next.”

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