Softball: L-P hangs with Metamora, but falls in regional final

Cavs take lead with 6-run fourth, but Redbirds rally for 9-7 win

Addie Duttlinger

METAMORA – La Salle-Peru senior Addie Duttlinger jumped on the first pitch she saw in the top of the fourth inning Saturday.

Duttlinger launched it over the left-center field fence and raced around the bases in celebration, high-fiving coach Randy Huebbe at third base and being mobbed by her teammates at home plate.

“It took me by surprise a little bit,” Duttlinger said. “I almost missed first base I was so excited. Seeing my teammates there almost brought me to tears because I thought we won it at that moment. I definitely could not have done it without my coach. He’s just been there for me. Seeing him at third, rounding the corner, it was like, ‘I’m hype, this is our game.’”

Duttlinger’s three-run shot capped a six-run inning for the No. 4-seeded Cavaliers, but No. 1 Metamora responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning and kept L-P off the board the rest of the way to win the Class 3A Metamora Regional final 9-7.

“We prepared very, very well for this,” Huebbe said. “I thought that’s how we could have played all year. I’ve been telling them all year. To be this close with the No. 2 team in the state, I thought our girls played their hearts out.”

The Cavs entered the fourth down 5-1.

After a hard line out by Ava Lambert, Taylor Vescogni drew a walk, Anna Riva beat out an infield single and Allie Thome loaded the bases with a single to left.

Kelsey Frederick hit a single inside the left field line to score two runs, and Grace Pecchio ripped an RBI double off the wall in left center to bring up Duttlinger.

“From the beginning Karmen [Piano] told me, ‘This is our inning,’” Duttlinger said. “Every single person went up there with the mindset that this was our inning and I think we took that and ran with it.”

Huebbe said the Cavs came in with a specific game plan against Metamora pitcher Nora Johnson and executed it.

“We got in the cage and worked on what we were going to see from that pitcher,” Huebbe said. “We sped it up a little bit. I watched a few games of theirs and you know she comes in with the first pitch to get ahead, and we were jumping all over that first pitch.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Karagan Harnett led off with a single, and Kaidance Till walked before Addi Pacha hit an RBI single to left-center field.

After a groundout, Bailee Bender brought in a run on a groundout to second base.

Johnson then helped her own cause by smacking a two-run homer to left to give the Redbirds a 9-7 lead.

Following a hit batter and a walk, Callie Mertes came on in relief and got a groundout to end the inning.

“We fell behind on some batters and that hurt,” Huebbe said. “(Vescogni) did get hit (with a foul ball off her leg while batting) and that could have bothered her. I thought she was around the plate a little more than the umpire was giving her, but it is what it is. I’m not going to have sour grapes because we have to hit the ball.”

The Cavs couldn’t sustain their offense after the big six-run inning as the final nine batters were retired in order.

“She started to start us out with some off-speed instead of just trying to get that first pitch for a strike,” Huebbe said. “We made the adjustment, we just didn’t execute. Our girls played with heart.”

L-P fell behind 1-0 in the first inning when the Redbirds loaded the bases with no outs before Vescogni limited the damage.

The Cavs tied it in the top of the second when Thome belted a solo homer to left center.

L-P finishes 17-17 and lost in a regional final for the fifth year in a row.

“We lost to a very good team, but I think people realize now our record doesn’t say what we were,” Huebbe said. “We went through a lot of adversity with injuries and stuff this year. When we got it all together, we were a pretty darn good team.”

Saturday’s loss marked the end of the careers for Duttlinger and Lambert.

“I love my two seniors,” Huebbe said. “They’re like my daughters. I’m going to miss them. They did a lot for the culture of this team for four years. Where this team is at has a lot to do with those two.”

L-P will return seven starters from Saturday’s game as well as several other players who had starting experience this season.

“We’re not going to be hurting,” Huebbe said. “We’re not going to rebuild. We’ll be alright.”

Metamora (29-6) won its fourth consecutive regional and advances to the Washington Sectional to play Washington at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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