MAPLE PARK – After one inning of the Class 3A Kaneland Supersectional on Monday, Antioch found itself in a strange position, especially in this postseason, when Sycamore took a one-run lead.
But junior Jacey Schueler took command in the circle, and the Sequoits battled back for a 5-2 win and advanced to the softball state tournament for a second straight year.
[ Photos: Sycamore softball falls to Antioch in Class 3A supersectional ]
“It’s like the most amazing feeling ever,” Schueler said. “From the beginning of the year I wanted to do it for the seniors. That’s what I’ve said the whole time. I think it’s super exciting for us to go back-to-back to state.”
The Sequoits (32-1) will face Charleston in a semifinal Friday in Peoria, with a potential rematch against Lemont looming in the title game. Lemont beat Antioch in a semifinal last year before winning the title.
“We never quit. We belonged here. For everyone that didn’t think we stood a chance, well guess what? We were winning this game for a while and I’m sure Antioch was sweating a little bit.”— Jill Carpenter, Sycamore softball
“Going out on a high, we’re ready,” Schueler said. “Our goal is to beat Lemont in the state tournament, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Emily Brecht drove in three runs for the Sequoits, including one on a triple in the top of the first. Schueler added an RBI triple to tie the score 2-2 in the third, and both runs that scored on those triples reached on errors.
Antioch also took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Eden Echevarria tripled and scored on an error. Brecht capped the scoring with a two-run double in the top of the seventh.
Sycamore (29-11) had been strong on defense all year, coach Jill Carpenter said. And they made some great plays Monday.
A ball Brecht hit after Schueler’s triple in the third went off the glove of pitcher Alyssa Wilkerson to shortstop Keera Trautvetter. She came home with the throw, and Kairi Lantz made the tag to keep the game tied at 2-2.
“They always come back to get you. They really do,” Carpenter said of the Spartans’ four errors, each leading to a run. “This team is going to make plays, and we still made some phenomenal plays. The play where it tipped off Alyssa’s glove and Keera threw home and Kai put the tag down, that’s a great play. A redirect and throwing home? But you got to make the routine ones, too. All year we’ve had above-average defense, but today wasn’t our day.”
Schueler took a no-hitter into the sixth and allowed only two hits, singles to Kaitlyn Williams and Brighton Snodgrass. She struck out nine and walked two.
The Spartans scored two without a hit in the first when Addie McLaughlin walked and Tia Durst bunted. The throw from Schueler went wide of first, allowing McLaughlin to score and Durst to get to third.
“That was huge, especially because I don’t think they were expecting me to drop a bunt,” Durst said. “That’s a nice little thing I keep in my back pocket. It set the tone and let them know we were here to play right away.”
Lantz followed with a pop-up that scored Durst for a 2-1 Sycamore lead.
Wilkerson kept the Sequoits’ bats at bay. She allowed seven hits. She walked no one and struck out two.
“I thought Alyssa threw really, really well,” Carpenter said. “For the most part she hit spots. She didn’t walk anyone. ... We just needed to play better on defense.”
The loss closes the book on Sycamore’s postseason run, the program’s longest since winning the state title in 2019.
“I will never sit here and say, ‘Oh man, It thought we were going to do this,’ ” Carpenter said. “I need people to understand how hard it is to win four games in the postseason. We competed really, really well in this game. We never quit. We belonged here. For everyone that didn’t think we stood a chance, well guess what? We were winning this game for a while, and I’m sure Antioch was sweating a little bit. We never looked like a team that didn’t know what we were doing.”
Echevarria had two hits and scored twice for Antioch, Brecht had three RBIs and two hits, and Jazzy Fisher had a pair of singles.
Antioch won its first four playoff games by a combined 44-1. Only five of the Sequoits’ games since April 21 have been decided by three runs or fewer. Coach Anthony Rocco said Monday’s win was a good test heading into Peoria.
“It’s good to be challenged,” Rocco said. “We kind of cruised those first three or four games, so to speak. It’s good to get a good push out of it.”
“This was our goal from Day 1, to get downstate for the second year in a row,” Rocco said. “This team is incredibly talented. The depth we got, good team chemistry. We’re just excited to get back downstate.”