The St. Anthony Lady Bulldogs won the IHSA Class 1A Effingham (St. Anthony) Regional Championship Friday afternoon 1-0 on a walk-off walk in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"[Plate discipline] was the biggest thing," said St. Anthony head coach Crystal Tipton. "Early in the game, we were swinging at too many early pitches and not really waiting for our pitch. As the innings wore on, I kept telling the girls 'you've got to go up there and be selective. Make her pitch some more.'
"Obviously the goal wasn't a walk, but it was just to have [Teasley] pitch some more pitches. Then, hopefully, if she's down in the count, have her put one in there so we can hit it. Ultimately, it worked for us the other way because we got the walks."
While the final score was only 1-0, there was no lack of excitement along the way.
For the first three innings, both pitchers worked without much pressure, but in the top of the fourth, the Lady Indians loaded the bases with one out. But that didn't phase Allie Day, who was able to avert the danger and get out of the jam by getting a big strikeout for the second out, followed by a line out right back to her. Day was excited, letting out a "let's go" in excited fashion as she made her way back to the bench. Liz Day had a big moment when she made a diving catch on a foul ball.
"They live and breathe this game," Tipton said of the Day twins. "They will give you every single ounce of their being when they're on this field. Even when they're off, they're texting me drills. They love this game and you can see it by how they play it. For them to win this in their senior year, they're keeping their hopes alive.
In the bottom of the inning, the Bulldogs returned the favor, loading the bases but with two out. A great diving play from Altamont shortstop Tinley Mette snagged a line drive for the third out to keep the score tied at zero.
In the top of the fifth, Caitlyn White led off the frame with a double. A fly out from Olivia Eckhardt to right allowed White to tag up and move to third. With one out and a runner on third, Day was able to induce a weak ground ball back to her. She looked White back to third before throwing the runner out at first. White broke for the plate on Day's throw to first, but a great throw from Lady Bulldogs first baseman Taylor Ritz was on the money and in time for Liz Day to throw out White and end the inning still tied at zero.
The Lady Bulldogs loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth after consecutive singles from Grace Karolewicz and Shea Kinkelaar respectively. An error allowed Grace Hakman to reach and load the bases. But as she had done in this game before, pitcher Bailey Teasley was able to induce a pop fly to get out of the inning with the score still tied at zero.
"Bailey threw excellent," said Altamont head coach Megan Burrus. "I know she's a little rough right now. It's hard to take that. But we wouldn't be here without her. She threw most of our innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Bulldogs were in good position to score after Jessica Coffin led off with a walk. A bunt down the third base line from Allie Day advanced Coffin to second. The bunt went less than halfway up the line, and a heads-up decision from Coffin to advance to third with nobody covering also allowed Day to move up to second in the confusion.
With one out and the winning run at third, Karlee Roepke hit a high fly ball to Katie Grimsley. After making the catch, Grimsley was able to throw out the tagging Roepke to stay alive. Teasley then induced a pop up to end the inning.
After Abby Goeckner led the inning off with a single, St. Anthony's Liz Day made a great diving play on a foul ball directly behind her, followed by a fielder's choice for the second out and a pop out for the third.
After getting a ground ball for the first out, Karolewicz singled to reach first. Shea Kinkelaar drew a walk before Teasley got a strikeout for the second out. Katie Kabbes drew a walk to load the bases. The next batter, Coffin drew a walk as well to score Karolewicz and win the regional championship.
Day earned the complete-game eight inning shutout win.
The Lady Indians end their season at 11-17.
"We started okay, we played some really good teams," Burrus said. "Then we evened our record up at 6-6, but then we went on a nine game skid. But these girls sucked it up, and we started putting together some wins, so we were on an uphill climb coming into the postseason.
"It is their attitude. They're high school kids. It's either stuff doesn't bother them or they don't let it bother them."
The Lady Bulldogs advance to the Macon (Meridian) Sectional semifinal, where they will take on Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg, who is coming off a 10-0 win over Morrisonville in the Pawnee regional.