EAST PEORIA —
Beecher had runners on base all game, Teutopolis committed four errors and fell behind 5-1 by the middle of the third inning.
The Shoes kept chipping away, grabbing a run in the fourth and one in the fifth, before Allison Apke stepped up with two on and two outs, down 5-3.
With one swing of the bat, the problems Teutopolis had early faded away nearly instantly, as Apke hit a three-run home run off Sarah Crews to put Teutopolis up for the first time and for good, as the Shoes (29-3) came back to win 6-5 against the Ladycats and advance to Saturday's Class 2A state championship game against Rock Island Alleman (31-6). It's the first time Teutopolis had advanced to the state semis, and it's the Shoes' first title game in softball.
The sophomore third baseman knew it right away.
"I knew I had to be there for my team. As soon as it came off the bat, I knew it was gone and I was really excited about it," Apke said. "Everyone was jumping all over me, it was so fun."
Kadi Borries struggled on the mound early, allowing two runs in the second inning, on an error and an RBI single by Isabella Woolslayer following a second error.
Teutopolis answered with one in the second of its own, as Julie Wente hit an RBI triple to make it 2-1. But highly-touted Beecher freshman Taylor Johnson led off the third with a missile of a home run to left, her 17th of the season, and the Ladycats scored on a two-out single by pinch-hitter Salem Garza to go up 5-1.
The Ladycats continued putting pressure on from there, but couldn't break the game open, being held scoreless from there and leaving two runners on base in each inning from the second to the sixth.
Borries never lost faith in her defense.
"I knew the whole time my defense was there," she said. "I just knew we would make it out on top. Our defense is really good, the balls they made errors on were hard-hit balls."
She led off the fourth with a double and scored on an RBI groundout by Wente, who was safe at first when Johnson was pulled off the bag. However, she thought she had been ruled out, and left the base when the ball was back in the pitcher's circle, so she was ruled out for good.
Raegan Drees walked with one out in the fifth, before a Madison Cowman single. Anni Borries reached on an interference call when Drees collided with Woolslayer at short for an out. Borries singled in Cowman, setting the stage for Apke to hit her ninth home run of the season.
"She threw me two outside pitches, and we've heard that she can't really throw inside that much," Apke said. "I screwed it up a little bit, I was just protecting everything close, and I saw my pitch and I took it."
The Shoes faced their biggest test of the day in the top of the sixth, when Johnson and Sarah Crews led off with singles. Cowman forced out Crews at second on a Sydney Zupan ground ball, but Zupan took second on a wild pitch.
With two in scoring position, Borries struck out Savannah Lowe and got Carson Solis to pop out to Danielle Repking to end the frame unscathed.
So of course, with the game on the line up 6-5 in the seventh, Borries had her one and only 1-2-3 inning to clinch a berth in the state title.
"I was definitely nervous, but we've trained for this and we wanted so bad," she said. "I started praying in the second inning, and we came out on top. Being the first team ever to make history to go to softball, our team is so excited. We've been working for it, we can do it."
Head coach Rich Niebrugge put the credit on his team for staying loose in the face of pressure, and the Borries twins for walking a tightrope as a pitcher/catcher unit.
"The first thing we said was we can do this, we were better than this," Niebrugge said. "What was hurting was routine plays. Second thing we said was we've got to loosen up, we've got to have some fun out here. The girls played a lot better having fun.
"Kadi gave us a great effort, Kadi and Anni together. Anni's a heck of pitching coach, when she sees Kadi not do something right, she's the first one out there. They're a great team."
Borries allowed 11 hits, one walk, five runs and three earned while striking out two. She was 2-for-3 at the day with a double and an RBI.
Apke was 2-for-2 with the game's biggest hit and three RBIs, and was also hit by a pitch. Wente was 1-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs, and Cowman was 1-for-3.
The Shoes have won the Super-Sectional title and state semifinal in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, and now, Niebrugge and his squad have a chance to bring home the title.
"We absolutely dodged a bullet. They've got a great team. We feel very fortunate, if you tell us before the game we're going to have four errors before the game, that's going to be tough to overcome," he said. "We just want to focus on what we can do, we need to play routine defense, good at-bats, be mentally prepared. There's no one on this team making any assumptions."
That game is tentatively scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today, as long as potential rain in the area doesn't make the IHSA switch around the schedule for the state championship games, which has been presented as a possibility.
Beecher 023 000 0 5 11 2
Teutopolis 010 140 X 6 6 4
WP - K. Borries (7 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 K, 1 BB) LP - Crews (6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 K, 1 BB)
Beecher: Woolslayer (2-5, RBI); Johnson (2-4, HR, RBI, R); Crews (2-4); Zupan (2-4, 2B, 2 R); Lowe (1-4, R); Solis (0-4, R); Stluka (1-2, BB); Garza (1-1, 2 RBI)
Teutopolis: Cowman (1-3, R); A. Borries (0-3, R); K. Borries (2-3, 2B, RBI, 2 R); Apke (2-2, HR, 3 RBI, R, HBP); Repking (0-3, R); Wente (1-3, 3, 2 RBI); R. Drees (0-2, BB)