Softball: Marengo falls to North Boone in Class 2A regional championship

Indians end season with 9-3 loss to Vikings, finish with 28-7 record

Marengo coach Rob Jasinski, left, embraces Marissa Young and Head Coach Dwain Nance embraces Lilly Kunzer after a loss to North Boone in IHSA Softball Class 2A Regional Championship action at Marengo Friday.

MARENGO – Marengo sophomore shortstop Gabby Christopher ripped her team-record 20th home run of the season far over the left-field fence to give Marengo a 2-0 lead over North Boone in the bottom of the second inning Friday.

Already among the state’s top home run-hitting teams of all time, the top-seeded Indians felt pretty good as they looked to secure their 16th regional title in 17 seasons.

But it was the fourth-seeded Vikings who brought the power as North Boone hit three home runs, including a grand slam, and went on to beat Marengo 9-3 in their Class 2A Marengo Regional final for the program’s first regional title since 2012.

Marengo, which won the Kishwaukee River Conference in back-to-back seasons and was ranked among the top 2A teams in the state all spring by the Illinois Softball Coaches Association, finished with a 28-7 record.

Marengo players, from left, Lilly Kunzer, Gabby Christopher, Emily White and Marissa Young arrive at the dugout at the end of an inning against North Boone in IHSA Softball Class 2A Regional Championship action at Marengo Friday.

The Indians had hopes of making a deep run in the postseason.

“They’re a good team. We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” said Marengo coach Dwain Nance, in his 17th season. “I’m really proud of our kids. They got down, they believed in each other and were still hoping and fighting to win this game. We just never came up with the big timely hits that we have all year.”

“They battled all the way until the last out. They’ve done a lot of great things. Obviously, we like to have postseason success. This is only the second regional we’ve lost since I’ve been here. It does kind of hurt a bit, but we’ll regroup, come back and be better.”

Christopher became McHenry County’s first player to hit 20 home runs, while Marengo finished the season with 64 homers as a team, the 11th most in IHSA history.

But North Boone senior pitcher Cami Carter proved too tough for the Indians, who were held to six hits. Carter allowed three runs (two earned) with seven strikeouts and no walks.

“It feels so great, we’ve been working so hard for this all year,” Carter said. “It just feels amazing. We get there (to the regional final) every year and this year we were finally able to push past it.”

North Boone coach Tim Fleming said Carter, who hit a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning before the Vikings added two more runs on a two-out double by Olivia Johnson to go up 5-2, has been playing at an elite level in recent weeks.

“The second half of the season she really kind of turned it on and she hasn’t let off the gas,” Fleming said. “We knew were we going up against a really great hitting lineup. Over the last couple of weeks, she’s been getting stronger and stronger and she’s really showed up at the right times.”

Marengo’s Gabby Christopher is greeted by third base coach Rob Jasinski on a Christopher home run against North Boone in IHSA Softball Class 2A Regional Championship action at Marengo Friday.

North Boone added four runs on a grand slam by Avarie Torres in the sixth, after the inning started with consecutive errors by the Indians’ defense.

Senior Marissa Young went 2 for 4 for Marengo, junior Kylee Jensen scored two runs and senior Emily White had a double. Christopher (1 for 3) added an RBI groundout in the sixth for Marengo’s final run.

Senior Lilly Kunzer took the loss, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits over four innings with four strikeouts and two walks. Junior Jozsa Christiansen came into the game in the fifth and allowed six runs (two earned) on four hits, striking out four.

Kunzer, who will play next year at Rock Valley College, reflected on what the program has meant to her after Friday’s loss.

“This program has meant everything to me,” Kunzer said. “We grew up from a young age, playing together every single year, and the bond we have is just so strong. This program is a tough program to play in, all the hard practices we’ve been through. We hold a strong bond over all of that.”

Young said she’ll most miss being around the people she’s grown up with.

“I’ve been in this program since I was little, playing with the same people,” Young said. “We all have so much love for each other and it’s helped us become who we are now.”

Marengo’s Kylee Jensen, right, tags out North Boone’s Sydney Goodman in IHSA Softball Class 2A Regional Championship action at Marengo Friday.
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