PERU – It would have been reasonable to assume that the District 20 Minor League softball tournament’s winner-take-all championship game on Thuirsday would have been another nail-biter, much like the semifinal on Wednesday had been.
After all, the same two pitchers - Bi-County’s Hannah Heiberger and Oglesby’s Brooklyn Pelka – that had combined to allow just six hits with 25 strikeouts in a one-run B-C win were slated to go again for all the marbles.
One could assume that, but one would only be half right.
Heiberger was on fire again, following up her 17-strikeout, one-hit performance the day before by surrendering only two hits – bunt singles by Eliana Opsal in the first inning and by Cara Kilmartin in the second – while fanning 10 over five innings to shut down Oglesby’s new bunt-oriented strategy.
However, the Oglesby half of the pitching thriller never fully materialized after the first three innings as the better portion of nine walks issued on the night led to a decisive eight-run fourth inning for B-C.
It parlayed that rally into a shortened 11-1 victory and the D-20 title at Sunset Park.
Heiberger, who walked just two in the circle, also had two of the winners’ six hits and scored four runs, including the only two she needed as a pitcher on hits by clean-up hitter Kennedy Holocker in the first and third innings.
Heiberger’s double and an RBI hit by McKay Gensini with no outs in the last of the fifth created the 10-run rule ending.
“We just want to keep playing and tonight, our girls came in ready to play and ready to hit, and maybe more important, not at all scared to lose,” B-C coach Jessica Lenkaitis said of the all-or-nothing win, which sends Bi-County into the state tournament at Beardstown on Saturday against a foe yet to be named. “Hannah did really well again tonight. She knows the defense is there for her and is ready to field for her, and that’s important. And she knows the hitters will come through for her like they did tonight. She has confidence in them and they have confidence in her.
“And we have all the confidence in Kennedy at the plate. She goes up there every time thinking she’s going to hit the ball.”
A Heiberger infield single and a ringing double to right field by Holocker gave B-C the lead in the home first.
In the top of the second for Oglesby, Quinn Entrican drew a lead-off walk, advanced to third on a wild pitch and a steal, then scored on a bunt single by Kennedy Kasperski. However, Kasperski was tagged out trying to score on another ball to the screen and the frame ended tied.
But in the third, Bi-County regained the lead for good when Heiberger walked and lateer scored from third on a Holocker infield single.
“We knew that the Oglesby pitcher was very good, so I was a little bit nervous, even though we’d seen her the night before,” said Holocker. “But once I saw others on our team hitting off of her, I relaxed a little and just did my best … We knew we didn’t need a lot of runs with Hannah on our team. She’s amazing.”
But while Heiberger was dealing, her team exploded for eight runs in the fourth inning, sending 14 batters to the plate without getting a hit. B-C drew seven walks and had a hit batter in the inning. In all, four B-C batters walked with the bags loaded.
“Like I said last night, their pitcher is just really good,” said Oglesby coach Nick Pelka. “With the accuracy and the heat she brings, we had to bring a new strategy tonight, try something different and it worked a little. It gave us a run and some base runners, but hat’s off to Bi-County … In fact, hats off to both teams. They both came out and played well like really good teams should in a big game like this.
“We were getting tired. It was a long season and it’s tough, especially after not having a season last summer. … But the girls played well and I’m proud of them.”