Softball: Jamie O’Brien, Neuqua Valley blank Benet in regional finalBenet Academy's pitcher Molly Moran throws out Neuqua Valley's Alyssa Domico (14) on Saturday May, 26 2012 at the Plainfield South High School regional in Joliet IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 26, 2012 5:51PM
What a difference two months make.
Back on March 26, Benet defeated Neuqua Valley 17-10 in a slugfest of epic proportions. Saturday, the Wildcats enacted revenge with a 1-0 victory over the Redwings (32-5) in a Class 4A Plainfield South Regional final win. While Benet was the top seed in the East Aurora Sectional, the Wildcats were seeded ninth.
“It means a lot,” winning pitcher Jamie O’Brien said of her team’s victory. “We have four seniors on the team and I didn’t want their season to end yet.”
The Wildcats (22-15) captured their first regional title since 2010 and second in school history. It is their first championship under second-year coach Melissa Wilson.
“We obviously have been reading about Benet all year,” Wilson said. “We played against Benet and saw their ability to just score a lot of runs and we knew that coming in. We knew we had to be smart, we had to be smart with our pitching, we knew we had to mix it up (pitch-wise) and we knew that we could hit.”
She said she was proud of her team’s composure in the late innings.
In a battle of sophomore pitchers, O’Brien (13-10) got the best of Benet’s Molly Moran. O’Brien pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits. She struck out two and walked one.
Moran (31-5) was great also, going seven while allowing five hits and one earned run. She fanned one and walked one. Moran was called for an illegal pitch early in the game but recovered to post three 1-2-3 innings.
“We didn’t hit but actually I thought their pitcher did a great job keeping us off balance,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. “They were able to squeak a run in. I actually thought Molly pitched fantastic; she was under a little duress not knowing whether every pitch she threw was going to be illegal or not, but I thought she did great. We played really solid defense; they just happened to get one situation where a ball tipped off one of our defensive players and they were able to get a run in, and we weren’t able to get that done. Going into this game, if I had known we would hold them to one run, I’d have thought we would have won the game by four or five.”
He credited O’Brien and her Wildcats teammates with earning the win and said the Redwings’ loss does not diminish what the team accomplished this season.
With the game scoreless in the top of the fifth, Megan Hannigan reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on Rebecca Lincoln’s groundout to a diving Moran. Senior Katie Cruse then smacked the go-ahead RBI single off Moran’s glove and into left field to score Hannigan.
O’Brien held fearsome Redwings leadoff hitter Maeve McGuire to an 0-for-3 day, twice inducing harmless popups to herself. Her key was keeping the ball inside on Benet’s left-handed hitters, using mainly her fastball.
Alyssa Domico went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt and Brooke Meyer was 2-for-3 for the Wildcats.