DWIGHT – On April 4, the Serena Huskers softball team traveled to rural Streator and handed host Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell a resounding 13-2 thrashing.
Late Friday afternoon with the championship of the Class 1A Dwight Regional on the line, the Warriors returned the favor.
Third-seeded WFC dominated the No. 2 seed that had dominated the Warriors just over a month and a half earlier, leading from the top of the first inning to the last out of the seventh in a 12-3, regional final decision. WFC (22-6) advances to the Dwight Sectional, returning Tuesday to face the winner of Saturday’s Illinois Lutheran Regional title game between the hosts and Yorkville Christian.
Serena (18-8) sees its season come to a close.
“We made mistakes that we don’t normally make. That was the frustrating part,” Serena coach Kelly Baker said. “That team that was out there today, that was not us, and unfortunately that’s the game we’re ending our season on.
“[WFC] did a phenomenal job. Credit to them, because they did awesome. They deserved that win ... but this game cannot define our season. We had a great season.”
Like their regular-season meeting, a fast start proved to be a sign of things to come.
WFC leadoff batter Olivia Chismarick opened the ballgame with a triple to the warning track off Huskers pitcher Maddie Glade, scoring a few pitches later on an Ella Derossett RBI groundout. Ella Sibert and Cloee Johnston both reached immediately afterward, setting the stage for the first of two clutch Kortney Harms two-run hits — this one a line-drive single to center to put the Warriors ahead 3-0.
“Our former teammate Sydney [Plesko] called me before the game and told me, ‘Just get in the box and know that you can hit the ball,’ and today I saw a new confidence in myself I hadn’t seen before,” Harms said.
“I saw Ella at second, and our coaches said switch places with her, so that’s what I tried to do.”
The Huskers drew within 3-2 in the home half of the third – RayElle Brennan doubling, Lanee Cole walking and Jenna Setchell delivering a two-out base hit up the middle to score them both.
WFC, however, voiced rebuttals of its own with a four-run fifth (Harms two-RBI double, Emma Highland RBI single), two-run sixth (Jena Easton RBI single) and three-run seventh (Chismarick RBI groundout, Sibert and Johnston RBI singles) to pull away.
“Our focus going into this game was, ‘Hey, remember a month and a half ago? We did this poorly. We did this poorly. We didn’t do a good job of this. Let’s fix those things,’ " WFC coach Jordan Farris said.
“We wanted to focus on not looking at strikes. We struck out 11 times last time, seven looking, and I don’t know if we had a strikeout today. The second one was, [Serena] came out and scored six runs on us in the first inning last time. This time we get the chance to hit first, and we had to pop them in the mouth.
“And I think that’s exactly what we did. We played confident.”
While the Warriors were piling up hits and runs against Glade (7 IP, 6 ER, 14 H, 4 BB, 0 K) – with additional help from an uncharacteristic six Serena errors – winning pitcher Shae Simons (7 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 6 K) in the bottom halves of innings was holding down the explosive Huskers offense. After the two-run third, Serena’s only other run came in the sixth when Setchell clubbed a leadoff triple and scored on a Glade RBI base hit to center.
“I knew that I had to do my job,” Simons said. “Last time against them wasn’t the best, but today was an important game. I knew I had to do it for my team, and knew I had to do a really good job to beat this team.
“They have a really tough-hitting lineup. It was crazy to do so well against them.”
Setchell with two hits and two RBIs led the Huskers. For Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell, it was Harms (two hits, four RBIs), Sibert (three hits, one RBI, three runs scored), Johnston (three hits, one RBI) and Highland (two hits, one RBI).
First pitch of Tuesday’s Dwight Sectional semifinal is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.