The Dupo softball team advanced to the state tourney for the first time since 2009 with two big wins over the holiday weekend.
The Tigers (20-5) edged Gillespie in walk-off fashion on Saturday, then brought out their bats in a supersectional win on Monday.
In the Class 2A Gillespie Sectional final on Saturday, Alyssa Strubberg scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a bloop double to right field by Rachael Donald.
Skylure Barlow started the scoring on a wild pitch following her one-out single in the first inning.
Gillespie was quick to respond, tying the game in the second inning on a single, sacrifice bunt, wild pitch and base hit. Strubberg snared a line drive in left field and doubled the Gillespie runner off first base to limit the damage.
The teams played even until the seventh inning, when Dupo caught a break. A hard hit ball to left by the Gillespie shortstop got hung up in the strong wind and was caught by Strubberg.
“On another day, that would probably leave the park,” Dupo head coach Greg Pennock said.
Strubberg then singled to short to lead off the bottom of the seventh. She was sacrificed to second by Barlow, and with one out, Donald blooped it into right.
“Donald barreled toward second base, never stopping on the play,” Pennock explained. “Just as I was about to put up the stop sign for Strubberg, the Miners fielder threw the ball toward second base and Strubberg sprinted home with the winning run.”
Dupo pitcher Jessica Stansch faced only 24 batters, scattering four hits in the win.
Monday’s supersectional contest against St. Joseph-Ogden at Athens started out rough for the Tigers.
“The last thing you want to do is spot a perennial powerhouse like St. Joseph a two-run lead in the first,” Pennock said. “Well, we did.”
Dupo’s Savannah Maldonado made an over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning and prevent further damage.
The Tigers got on the board in the third inning, as Caitlin Brizzi and Strubberg singled and Barlow and Donald walked to make it 2-1.
Dupo tied the score in the top of the fourth, when a double by Stormy Sellers drove home Megan Brown, who had walked.
St. Joseph took back the lead in the bottom of the fourth, but the fireworks started in the fifth.
Brown smashed a ground-rule double that scored two. The Tigers tacked on two more and led 6-3.
In the sixth, the Tigers added four more runs to make it 10-3. Barlow doubled, Donald singled, Esmon tripled and Brown homered.
St. Joe plated two in the seventh, but the rally was cut short and the Tigers celebrated a 10-5 supersectional win.
Brizzi snagged a lined shot to center that everyone thought was over her head for a huge defensive gem in the final inning, Pennock said.
The Tigers will face Elgin St. Edward (26-8) in the IHSA Class 2A tourney in East Peoria at 3 p.m. Friday.
Eagles fall in regional final
Columbia ended its season with an 11-6 loss to Highland in the Class 3A Columbia Regional final on Saturday.
The Eagles led 3-0 after two innings, but the Bulldogs offense kicked into high gear with a six-run third to change the tide.
Columbia (24-6) pulled to within two at 8-6 after five innings, but Highland tacked on three more runs in the seventh.
Calli Wibbenmeyer and Lexi Touchette had big hits to keep the Eagles close, but 10 walks issued by Columbia pitching and three errors on defense proved costly in the end.
Touchette led the team in hitting this spring at .454, followed by Wibbenmeyer at .451 with six home runs and 39 RBIs and senior catcher Kalli Farmer at .449 with 38 RBIs.
‘Dogs downed by Highland
Waterloo was hoping for a third showdown with Columbia this season, but those plans were thwarted by Highland last Wednesday in a 5-0 defeat in the regional semifinal.
Highland pitcher Kirsten Plocher struck out 10 to shut down Waterloo’s offense, and the Bulldogs in red and black plated two runs each in the second and fourth innings to take charge of the game.
Miranda Brown went 2-for-3 for Waterloo, which finished the season at 15-17.
Taylor Augustine led the ‘Dogs in hitting this season at .411, followed by Emma Snodgrass at .364 and Ashley Reeder and Erica Schaab at .340.