Softball: Jen Hall hit lifts Leyden past Young in extrasLeyden's Jen Hall (16) hits a two RBI single against Shurz in a 10 run first inning Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at Morton East High School in Cicero. Leyden won 11-0 in the Class 4A regional semifinal. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 26, 2012 5:11PM
Jen Hall was pleasantly surprised when Leyden softball coach Kurt Schuett didn’t give her the bunt sign in the bottom of the eighth inning of Saturday’s championship game of the Morton Class 4A Regional.
The junior third baseman came to the plate with runners on first and second and nobody out, and it didn’t take for her to put smiles on the faces of all of her teammates and coaches. Hall’s base hit scored April Markowski with the winning run, as Leyden, the No. 2 seed in the Trinity Sectional, edged No. 10 seed Young, 7-6.
‘‘I thought he’d have me bunt to advance the runners, but I’m glad he let me hit,” Hall said. “I knew it was a good hit when I hit the ball; I started smiling right away.”
Schuett said he considered asking Hall to attempt a sacrifice bunt in hopes of having runners on second and third with one out. He decided against it.
“Actually, I decided after April led off with a base hit that we were just going to take our chances and not give up any outs,” Schuett said.
After Markowski’s leadoff single to start the bottom of the eighth, Young coach Mike Hinrichs thought about intentionally walking Leyden star Morgan Maize for the third time in the game. Instead, he allowed Dolphins’ pitcher Zoe Nykaza to pitch to Maize, who did all the damage she needed with a chopper out in front of the plate, which turned into a 15-foot base hit.
“Our game plan coming in was to not let Morgan beat us,” Hinrichs said. “We pitched very carefully to her there.”
Ultimately, Hinrichs said, the game came down to which team made the last play. Both teams struggled, defensively. Leyden (28-7) was guilty of three errors along with a couple of mental errors in the field and two fly balls to the outfield that should have been caught, but dropped in for hits. Four errors by Young were key in Leyden’s runs.
“It definitely was ugly, but this is the part of the season when you really just have to find a way to win,” Schuett said. “We struggled, again, defensively, but we also made a few plays when we had to at times when things could have gotten worse.”
Young took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a two-out triple by Stephanie Schreiber, followed by Nykaza’s RBI-double.
Leyden came right back to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first with the help of two errors by the Dolphins and a two-run single by Maize.
Young went ahead, 4-3, in the third inning. Nikki Pietrus, Maddie DiVittorio and Nykaza all had base hits in the rally, and Clara Ledsky was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in the lead run.
Each team scored runs in the fourth, leaving the Dolphins with a 5-4 advantage. Leyden took a 6-5 lead in the fifth when Markowski’s two-out grounder was misplayed, allowing two runs to score.
Young came back to forge a 6-6 tie in the top of the sixth when Pietrus singled with one out and came all the way around to score when Schreiber’s fly ball was mishandled in the outfield.
Leyden pitcher Maize shut the Dolphins down in the seventh and eighth innings, setting the stage for Hall’s heroics in the bottom of the eighth.
“We had confidence when we got behind,” Maize said. “We made some errors that hurt, but we knew we’d come out of it.”
The Eagles advance to a 4:30 p.m. Thursday semifinal of the Trinity Sectional against Lane, which defeated Fenwick, 4-2, Saturday. Leyden defeated Lane, 3-1, May 15.