Class 4A softball: Lincoln-Way East falls to Marist in supersectional

The Griffins could not overcome five home runs by the Redhawks and finished with a 27-3 record

CHICAGO – For most of the season, the Lincoln-Way East softball team used its powerful offense to steamroll teams to the tune of a 27-2 record and a berth in Tuesday’s Class 4A Marist Supersectional.

The Griffins, however, got a taste of their own medicine, as defending state champion Marist scored all of its runs via the home run in an 8-4 victory to advance to this weekend’s Class 4A State Finals in East Peoria. The Redhawks (30-5-1) hit a total of five home runs, including two by Isabel Cunnea, and used a solid pitching performance by Brooke McNichols to keep Lincoln-Way East at bay.

Neither team scored in the first inning, but Marist, the visiting team despite hosting the game, showed signs of what was to come in the top of the second. With two outs, Bri Hanik blooped a single to left and Caroline O’Brien followed with a home run to center for a 2-0 lead.

Lincoln-Way East answered in the bottom of the second. Danielle Stewart led off with a double to right-center. A grounder to second by Amanda Martinek moved courtesy runner Maddie Raske to third, and a single off McNichols’ glove by Mackenzie Gallagher (2 for 3, RBI) brought home Raske to make it 2-1. Maddie Hickey followed with a single, but McNichols got out of the inning by inducing a pair of infield pop-outs.

In the top of the third, Marist’s Sierra Sass doubled to left with one out and went to third when a fly ball to left by Emily Bojan was dropped allowing Bojan to reach second. Cunnea then launched a deep fly to center that went off the Lincoln-Way East center fielder’s glove and over the fence for a three-run homer and a 5-1 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Lincoln-Way East showed it wasn’t done. Stewart led off with a walk, and singles by Martinek and Gallagher loaded the bases. Hickey (2 for 3) then slammed a double to right-center, scoring courtesy runners Raske and Kelly Raslovicz. Texas committ Maddie Pomykalski hit a foul popup behind first that Marist second baseman Sass made a sliding catch on, but pinch-runner Caleigh Geijer tagged up at third and scored to make it 5-4.

“We expected a tight game,” Hickey said. “We have played against these girls a lot. We know they won state last year and they are a good team, but we expected it to be tight. We didn’t quit.

“When we were down 5-1, I didn’t want to be done. Then we got it to 5-4, and we figured we would score some more.”

Unfortunately for the Griffins, they did not score any more. McNichols retired 11 of the final 12 batters she faced, allowing only a one-out single by Katie Stewart in the top of the fifth.

Marist, meanwhile, did score more runs.

The Redhawks got a one-out solo homer by Cunnea in the top of the fifth to move ahead, 6-4, and they put it away in the top of the seventh when Kaitlyn Wright led off the inning with a solo homer, and an out later, Bojan finished it off with a solo homer.

“When we were down, 5-1, we were able to chip away,” Lincoln-Way East coach Elizabeth Hyland said. “But we had to continue hitting.

“Still, it was an amazing season. This is a great group of girls, and they have nothing to not be proud of. Making it to the Elite Eight, there is nothing to complain about. We are going to miss our seniors [Kayla Crabtree, Gallagher, Chloe Geijer, Andriana Killias, Allison McMahon, Pomykalski, Danielle Stewart and Morgan Wassall]. They have given a lot to this program. We have a lot of experience coming back, so the future is exciting.”

Hickey, a junior, is one of the players returning.

“I hope to use this experience as motivation for next year,” she said. “We had phenominal batting all year, and it was fun to watch Danielle Stewart pitch so well all season. We battled and didn’t quit.”