GENOA – Opportunity came knocking for the Sterling softball team many times in Friday’s Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional championship game against Sycamore.
Unfortunately for the Golden Warriors, there was rarely an answer.
Sterling squandered some golden chances to dent the scoreboard, and the Spartans were able to hang on for a 2-1 victory.
Sycamore (30-6-1) advances to the Kaneland Supersectional on Monday, where it will face Marengo. The Indians edged Woodstock Marian 3-2 at the Wauconda Sectional final.
Sterling (27-4) managed just three hits against a pair of Sycamore pitchers, starter Faith Reynolds and reliever Milani Sablan, and stranded seven baserunners.
“We couldn’t get momentum going,” Sterling coach Becki Edmondson said. “We had a couple innings where we had the lead runner on, but we couldn’t get her over, or we had runners on second and third or the bases loaded, and we just couldn’t put the ball in play. The girls that batted, it’s a stressful situation, there’s a lot of pressure, and it just got to them today.”
The Warriors scored their only run in the top of the fourth inning. Grace Gould led off with a double and advanced to third on a long fly ball to center by Olivia Edmondson.
The next batter, Gretchen
Gould, tried to suicide squeeze her younger sister in, but missed the ball, and Grace Gould was caught in a rundown. The third throw of the rundown, however, was an errant one by Sycamore catcher Mia Richards, allowing Grace Gould to score her team’s first – and as it turned out, only – run.
In the third inning, Meghan Sechrest drew a two-out walk, and advanced to second a wild pitch. Riley Dittmar struck out to end the inning.
In the fifth, Hannah Jacoby led off with a walk, and Dittmar followed with a two-out walk. Grace Gould then lined out hard to right to end the inning.
Sterling’s biggest threat came in the sixth. With one out, Gretchen Gould was hit by a pitch, then Jordan Thormeyer reached on a throwing error by Sycamore third baseman Erin Simmons. Genea Garza singled softly to center field, but Gretchen Gould was able to advance only to third on the play, for fear of the ball being caught by center fielder Amanda Swedberg.
But the next two batters, Jacoby and Amayia Hernandez, struck out swinging to end the threat.
Sablan allowed one hit, two walks and hit one batter, with three strikeouts, in 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
“It was just me having confidence in my pitches, but if they do get a hold of it, I knew my team would be behind me,” Sablan said. “That’s what they did.”
Sycamore, meanwhile, was able to manufacture two runs in the bottom of the first off Sterling starter Jayme Eilers (25-3). Haley Trela led off with a double – a shallow pop fly to center that glanced off the glove of Sterling shortstop Grace Gould.
The No. 2 batter, Swedberg, followed with a slow roller to Gretchen Gould at third base, but her throw to first baseman Olivia Edmondson was low, and it skipped into foul territory. Trela scored on the play, and Swedberg went to second.
Reynolds advanced Swedberg to third on a sacrifice bunt, and Gracyn Gabriel followed with an RBI groundout for an all-important second run.
The key play was the leadoff double by Trela – which was a whisker away from being an out.
“It’s one of those plays that you’re going to think about, if you make the catch how much it would affect the game,” Grace Gould said. “It’s something hard that you have to deal with.”
Eilers was masterful in the circle in her final game as a Golden Warrior. She allowed two runs (one earned), two hits and hit one batter, with seven strikeouts. Two of those strikeouts came after the Spartans loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning.
Sterling had defeated Sycamore 2-0 back on May 7, but the Spartans won the matchup that kept their season alive.
“They are a great group of girls,” coach Edmondson said of her club. “We got along well. We had a lot of fun at practices. They were a joy to coach. This hurts today, but we told them to hold their heads high. They’ve done a lot of good things.”
3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional final
Sycamore 2, Sterling 1
Star of the game: Milani Sablan, Sycamore, 3 2/3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 SO, 2 BB, 1 HBP
Key performers: Jayme Eilers, Sterling, 6 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 H, 7 SO, 1 HBP; Haley Trela, Sycamore, 2B, run scored