PERU — Through the first two innings Wednesday, the La Salle Junior League Softball team did not have a hit.
Still, the La Salle All Stars managed to take a two-run lead by capitalizing on Peru miscues with aggressive base running.
In the third, the La Salle bats got going and La Salle broke the game open en route to a 17-2, four-inning victory in the District 20 championship game at Sunset Park.
“We executed everything,” La Salle coach Mike Pyszka said. “It was a tight first couple innings and after that, we broke loose. We’ve always said we’ve been a third inning team. Everything clicked all the way from one to 13. They played great. Everybody had an impact.”
It was a District 20 repeat for the majority of the La Salle roster that was on the La Salle team that claimed the district banner at the Little League level last summer en route to a second-place finish in the state.
“We have 80 percent of the same kids as last year and anytime you can repeat with the competition that’s in the area, that means a lot for the kids,” Pyszka said.
La Salle advances to the state tournament in Melrose Park, which begins Saturday.
“We’re looking to make a run again and have fun,” Pyszka said.
On Wednesday, Peru grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning but La Salle responded in its half of the frame.
Molly Mudge drew a walk to start the inning, stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch.
La Salle scored two more in the second without the help of a hit when Lily Solomon walked and Angie Bartlot reached on an error before Solomon scored on a passed ball and Bartlot scored on a wild pitch.
“Base running, fake bunts, stealing, you have to play small ball at this level,” Pyszka said. “They’re all athletes, so you have to break it down a little bit and play small.”
Kelsey Fredricks sparked a seven-run third inning for La Salle when she ripped a triple and scored on a wild pitch.
Bartlot hit a two-run double, Abby Smudzinski hit an RBI double, Sophia Pyszka had an RBI single and Mudge delivered an RBI single as La Salle sent 10 hitters to the plate.
“When you come out and you hit the ball like we did in the third, it gets everybody going,” Mike Pyszka said. “Once this team gets some momentum, you watch out because they’re as good as I’ve had the chance to coach.”
La Salle batted around again in the fourth and scored seven more runs to invoke the 15-run mercy rule.
Sophia Pyszka was the winning pitcher for La Salle as she gave up two unearned runs on two hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
“She did great,” Mike Pyszka said. “She was able to pitch high. She was able to locate her pitches. She threw the hardest I’ve seen her throw yet this season.”
For Peru, Ella Lamboley scored its first run on a sacrifice fly by Alia Acosta, while Vizion Byrd singled and scored Peru’s other run.
“Obviously, it didn’t go our way, but I’m very proud of these girls,” Peru coach Christine Mitchell said. “They played hard and they stuck with it. I really couldn’t ask for much more.”
Peru advanced to the title game with a 13-6 win over Spring Valley in Wednesday’s first game.
Peru broke open the first game with a five-run fifth inning.
Pristine Baker had a triple and Acosta hit a double for Peru, while Gia Grebner was the winning pitcher.
“We battled hard,” Mitchell said. “We wanted it.”