BELVIDERE – After walking twice already heading into the seventh, Sycamore leadoff hitter Addie McLaughlin said the last thing she was looking for was yet another base on balls.
She got her wish.
The Sycamore leadoff hitter legged out an infield single, then two steals and a wild throw later, McLaughlin scored the tying run in the Spartans’ 6-5 comeback win against Sterling in the Class 3A Belvidere North Sectional championship.
“When I first got up to bat, I was not looking for another walk,” McLaughlin said. “I was tired of walking.”
“My mind is we’re going to go big or go home at this point. Could she have gotten thrown out? She could have. Have we stolen third yet this year? No, that was the first one. ... I knew she could beat the race with the shortstop coming over, I knew we were going to do the fake bunt, and we got lucky.”— Jill Carpenter, Sycamore softball coach
The Spartans (29-10) trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh, having tagged Sterling starter Sienna Stingley for four unearned runs in the fourth. After her single, McLaughlin stole second, but Tia Durst ended up drawing a walk.
Kaitlyn Williams came to the plate, showed bunt to draw in the Sterling infield, then both McLaughlin and Durst took off. McLaughlin – and the throw from catcher Marley Sechrest – got to third before shortstop Katie Taylor could get there. The ball went into left field, McLaughlin scored the tying run, and Durst ended up on third.
“When Addie and I did that double steal, we’re the quickest people in the team,” Durst said. “So I was happy when we were doing that. And then when they overthrew the ball, I knew at that point. Then Kay was up and it was good.”
With the infield in, Williams hit a chopper to short that Taylor bobbled, although Sycamore coach Jill Carpenter said she thought Durst would have been safe at the plate either way.
“My mind is we’re going to go big or go home at this point,” Carpenter said. “Could she have gotten thrown out? She could have. Have we stolen third yet this year? No, that was the first one. ... I knew she could beat the race with the shortstop coming over, I knew we were going to do the fake bunt, and we got lucky.”
It was actually the second time the Spartans had to come back against the Golden Warriors (24-12). Sterling scored three in the top of the third off starter Alyssa Wilkerson. Katie Dittmar and Taylor singled, then both scored on a single by Mya Lira, who in turn scored on a single by Stingley for a 3-0 lead.
Three errors by Sterling in the bottom of the fourth allowed four Sycamore runs to score, the lone RBI of the inning a single by Brighton Snodgrass that scored Kairi Lantz. In the fifth, Sterling took a 5-4 lead off Sycamore reliever Addison Dierschow on a triple by Lauren Jacobs that scored Olivia Melcher and Lira.
“We just let it get away from us a little bit there,” Sterling coach Donnie Dittmar said. “We hit, we played really well at times, but when big moments came, we really didn’t make the plays.”
The Sycamore defense clamped down after the triple, turning a double play on a line drive to end the inning, one of three double plays the Spartans turned in the game, including two of the more traditional groundout variety.
In addition to being impressed by her defense, Carpenter said she thought both Dierschow and Wilkerson pitched very well, especially considering their workload the last two days. The Spartans’ semifinal against Kaneland started Wednesday at Belvidere North, but they could only play half an inning.
On Thursday, the continuation started in Belvidere before another long delay shifted the venue to Sycamore under the lights.
“They had to warm up like five or six times the past two days,” Carpenter said. “The postponements, then ‘Oh, we’re going to start.’ ‘Oh no we’re not, we’re going back inside.’ Moving the game six hours later yesterday. That’s a lot of pitches and a lot of high-effort, high-anxiety type pitches.”
Sycamore finished the game with five hits by five players. Dierschow got the win and allowed just two hits and struck out three. One of the two runs she surrendered was earned. The Spartans will face Antioch at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Kaneland Supersectional.
Sterling had six hits in the loss and committed four errors. Six different Golden Warriors had hits. Stingley didn’t allow an earned run and struck out seven.
“We had peaks and valleys. I’m proud of these guys,” Donnie Dittmar said. “We ended up winning 24 games. I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the season. I liked that we were playing our best softball at the end of the year. We just had a couple of bad plays in this one, and that cost us the game.”