PEORIA — It was pretty clear from the start of Saturday’s Class 3A state championship softball game between Lemont and St. Ignatius that runs would be at a premium. Both Lemont’s Sage Mardjetko and St. Ignatius’ Ellie Giles were dominant from the start, putting to rest any idea either team had of stringing a few hits together for a run or two.
It turned out that none of the three hits that Lemont finished with figured in the scoring of the game’s only run. That run was scored via a pair of errors, resulting in one of the oddest ways of scoring anyone had seen as Lemont won, 1-0, with Mardjetko throwing a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts to claim Lemont’s first state softball championship.
With one out in the top of the third, Lemont’s No. 9 hitter, freshman Maya Hollendoner, laid down a bunt and reached base when the throw to first was dropped. With a 1-2 count on Allison Pawlowicz, Hollendoner broke for second, and the throw from St. Ignatius catcher Elise Wolf appeared to have Hollendoner beat. However, the ball tipped off the Wolfpack shortstop’s glove, went into center field, and skipped past the charging center fielder. Hollendoner popped up from her slide, took off for third and kept going when coach Chris Traina waved her around. She slid in safely as the Lemont bench and crowd erupted in elation.
“I was just trying to get on base, so I put a bunt down,” Hollendoner said. “When I tried to steal, the throw beat me, but I slid and saw it go past the shortstop, so I got up and went to third. I kept my head up and saw Coach waving me around, so I kept going.
“We figured it would be a close game, so when we scored, we were all so happy.”
No one was happier than Mardjetko, who retired the first 13 batters she faced before Lizzy Nejman reached on an error for St. Ignatius with one out in the fifth. Mardjetko walked a batter with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to complete her 11th no-hitter of the season.
“I was a lot less nervous today than I was yesterday [Friday’s 3-1 win over Antioch],” Mardjetko said. “I was very confident in myself and in my team, and the confidence made a difference today.
“We were going crazy in the dugout when Maya scored. It was one of the weirdest ways to score, but we were so excited.”
Mardjetko baffled St. Ignatius hitters with her assortment of both pitches and locations, and the defense behind her was nearly flawless. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Raegan Duncan speared a line drive to third. In the bottom of the fifth, Glies launched a Mardjetko pitch deep to left, but Nicole Pontrelli made a long running catch near the fence. Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Natalie Pacyga made a sliding catch of a foul popup behind first.
“The hitter had two strikes, and I saw [catcher] Frankie [Rita] put down a sign for a changeup,” Duncan said. “When she calls that, I tend to move closer to the hitter because most of the time, they just roll over the ball and hit a soft grounder. This time, she swung later than I thought she would and hit it right at me. I just stuck my glove up and when I looked at it, I was surprised it was still there.”
Pacyga, who loaned Duncan a pair of pants for the weekend when Duncan packed the wrong pair, also hit a long fly ball to left that was caught on the warning track and later doubled. Besides a pair of singles by Rita, her double was the only Lemont hit.
“I honestly thought the first ball I hit was going out from the way the crowd reacted,” Pacyga said. “But, I just had to forget about that because I had another at-bat coming, and I was able to hit a double.
“On the foul ball, I just kept going after it. We are taught by our coaching staff to never give up and play until the last out, so that’s what I did.”
Lemont coach Chris Traina, in her 15th season, was nearly speechless following the game.
“I don’t have the words right now,” she said. “I am just thrilled for these girls. We were trying to make them make a play, and when that ball went into center field, I knew we had to take advantage of it. It’s not new for us to put runners in motion, so we just stayed with our game plan.
“This season had some ups and downs, but the kids definitely had their goal set after finishing second last year. Our defense, especially the last two games, was outstanding, and Sage on the mound, she wanted this and we knew we would get her best.”