By BRADEN LAYER Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — CHARLESTON -- Amidst the thunder and lightning, and the lengthy one-hour delay, Monday’s Taylorville Regional play-in game between Effingham and Charleston turned out to be quite the battle in the early stages.
The Lady Hearts scored two runs in their first at-bat, and were neck-and-neck with the Lady Trojans until the sixth. Effingham scored one in the top of the frame to knot the game at three runs apiece, but Charleston scored five in its last at-bat of the day to deal the Lady Hearts a season-ending 8-3 defeat.
“It was actually a good ballgame until the sixth,” Effingham coach Jerry Trigg said. “We didn’t know what might happen after the delay.”
Kelli Utz was hit by the game’s opening pitch, and less than two pitches later, thunder cracked across the sky, forcing a delay that lasted upwards of an hour.
The momentary break didn’t seem to have any effect on the Lady Hearts’ bats, as Brandy Pontius doubled to restart the game with a deep ball to left field. The powerful drive scored Utz for the game’s first run. Effingham’s Kaylee Tonn drove in the second on a line drive to center that found a Charleston glove, but Pontius tagged up and crossed home safely to open up an early 2-0 lead.
“We were feeling pretty good,” Trigg said. “Our hitters did a good job, even every out was a hard-hit ball.”
Charleston’s offense was also ready for battle. The Lady Trojans scored one run in the first and two in the third, taking a 3-2 lead that would stand until the sixth inning.
Deedra Myers led off with a base hit, and courtesy runner Gloria Rivera stole second in the ensuing at-bat. Shelby Nunamaker shifted all the momentum back in favor of Effingham with her RBI hit, but the celebration would be short-lived.
Ciara Kronewitter, Effingham’s starting pitcher, walked the opening batter in the bottom of the inning with the game all square at 3-3. After picking the runner off at second, Kronewitter walked another, and in the following at-bat, a Charleston batter hit a bunt with some air underneath it that appeared to be the second out.
But the ball eluded Kronewitter, and Charleston got runners on the corners with one out on a ball that could have ended any danger with a double play.
“We would have been out of the inning,” Trigg said. “If we make that play, we’re out. Instead, they get runners on first and third. The wheels just fell off from there.”
Charleston went on to score five runs in the inning, and Effingham was held scoreless in the top of the seventh to close the season on a heartbreaking defeat.
Kronewitter finished with nine hits in her seven innings, also striking out two batters.
Seven seniors played their last game for the Lady Hearts, and Trigg said the class was instrumental in helping the younger players learn the ropes.
“They all had very good attitudes,” he said. “They really helped bring along the freshman group. We had good chemistry, no attitude problems, and you can credit the seniors for that.”
Effingham finished the season with a record of 17-16, and Utz completed the year batting above .400, just the second player to do so in Trigg’s 16 seasons at the helm.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Effingham 200 001 0 3 4 2
Charleston 102 005 x 8 9 1
WP - Stewart LP - Kronewitter
Effingham: Utz (1B); Myers (1B); Nunamaker (1B, RBI); Tonn (RBI); Pontious (2B, RBI).
Charleston: Finn (3 1B); Barr (3 1B); Story (1B); Wilson (1B).