Mother McAuley pulls out big winTrinity's Gabrielle Smart (left) steals second as Mother McAuley's Erin O'Donnell waits for the throw. | Jon Langham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2011 9:39PM
The scoreboard was out for much of the sectional semifinal of Mother McAuley and conference rival Trinity Thursday at Morton.
It hardly mattered. What unfolded on the field was too riveting to take your eyes off. Besides, the two provided all the electricity required. The win-or-go-home stakes of the state tournament naturally ratchet up the intensity and drama.
In a game of wild momentum swings and unexpected flourishes, the Mighty Macs pulled out the scintillating 6-5 victory when pinch runner Caroline Usher scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The dramatic win propels the Mighty Macs into Saturday’s Class 4A Sectional final against Richards.
The two GCAC Red powers split during the season. Trinity won the most recent game by winning the conference tournament.
One out away from winning in the top of the seventh, Mother McAuley watched almost helplessly as star Trinity sophomore second baseman Nicole Evans smashed a 3-0 count over the right field fence for a game-tying two run blast.
“I knew [Mother McAuley starter Ashley Rogers] was going to throw me something good because she didn’t want to walk me and have the go-ahead batter at the plate,” Evans said. “She threw it low and away, and that was the first time this year I hit a home run into right field.”
“It was heart stopping,” Mother McAuley coach Colleen Kilduff said. “I felt like crying.”
The Mighty Macs (28-9) responded in their half of the seventh. With one out, sophomore Megan Bush drilled an opposite-field double. Usher replaced her as the pinch runner. Catcher Alex Raske followed with a line shot into centerfield. Usher momentarily held at second and was forced to stop at third base. Rogers walked to load the bases.
Trinity star sophomore pitcher Chase Machain uncorked a high pitch that sailed over the catcher’s head and scored the winning run.
“I wish they’d gotten a hit to end it,” Trinity coach Bob Osborne said. “We always say we’re not out of a game until you beat us. Give McAuley credit, they beat us in the seventh,” Osborne said.
Rogers was magnificent, beating the fearsome Blazers (29-4) for the second time this year. She allowed just five hits, struck out seven and issued just a single walk. “I knew they had a lot of great hitters,” Rogers said.
“I just wanted to keep the ball low and away and not give them anything. I think outside of the two home runs, I pitched pretty well.”
Trinity sophomore shortstop Abby Ramirez drilled a two-run shot into left center for a 3-1 Trinity lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Mother McAuley came right back with a four-run, six-hit inning. Bush (3-for-4, 2 RBI) and Raske (3-for-4) tied the game up with consecutive run-scoring singles. First baseman Micaela Carney (2-for-3) drilled a two-out, two-run single into shallow center for the Mighty Macs’ 5-3 lead.
“There was so much pressure, but I just wanted to get a hit and I was able to make contact and that gave us the momentum,” Carney said. “We knew they were a great team with amazing hitters and we had to find a way to stay ahead of them.”
The Mighty Macs prevailed despite surrendering five errors. All five of Trinity’s runs were unearned. “You could tell we had a lot of jitters today,’ Kilduff said. “Trinity is not only a great team, but they’re our biggest rivals and we’re always extra amped to play them.”
Runner-up in Class 3A last year, Trinity ends a spectacular season on a bitter note. “It as good game, but we just could not make that one play with our bat,” Osborne said. “No regrets. The kids are devastated right now, especially Chase, but we’ll get over it and we’ll be back.”