The Plainfield Central softball team ran the gamut of emotions in Monday’s Class 4A supersectional at Mary M. Bell Field on the Northern Illinois University campus.
That the final score said defending state champion Moline beat the Wildcats 5-4 to advance to the state semifinals Friday at EastSide Centre in East Peoria does not tell the entire story, for this was a classic.
Plainfield Central (27-9) had two hits through six innings off sophomore right-hander Alaina Hofmann and trailed 3-1 entering the top of the seventh, with the 7-8-9 hitters in coach Anne Campbell’s lineup scheduled to hit.
But Karly Jackson opened the inning with a long double and Timi Tooley singled. With one out, losing pitcher Morgan Vogt drilled a two-run double into the left-field corner to tie it. And with two outs, senior catcher Cailey Baker singled home the go-ahead run.
“I knew Morgan was going to get the hit and drive in the two runs, and then I said, ‘It’s my time,’ ’’ Baker said. “That last inning was a real adrenaline rush.”
But Moline responded in the bottom of the seventh with a bad-hop single, a hot single off third baseman Dominque Roa’s hand, a single to center, a disputed safe call at the plate on a potential fielder’s choice that tied it 4-4 and Brittny Drish’s game-winning single to center.
“Things bounced their way at the end,” Campbell said, whose team reached the supersectional level for the first time in school history.
“I’m just very proud of our girls, the way they didn’t quit. They left it all out there.”
As has been their M.O. throughout the postseason, the Wildcats played excellent defense, keeping the game within reach.
Shortstop Kaleigh Nagle, Roa, second baseman Rachel Egly and Jackson all made excellent plays, and center fielder Tooley threw out a runner at the plate to maintain a 1-1 tie in the fifth as Baker caught the ball up a few feet up the third-base line, dove at the sliding runner and made the tag. However, the next hitter, Kaitlyn Knary, delivered a two-run double for a 3-1 Moline lead.
“We wanted to come here and play as hard as we could, but we came up short,” Vogt said. “Whatever happened the last inning, I was happy and excited to be here.
“This hurts, but it was a good loss.”
Central broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth when Baker walked and scored on Roa’s RBI double. The Wildcats also left the bases loaded that inning.
Moline (30-10) drew even in the bottom of the inning when Drish sliced a ball down the right-field line and turned it into an inside-the-park home run when it skipped past diving right fielder Michaela Schlattman.
“They (Maroons) hit the ball well,” Campbell said. “You have to give them credit.”