VERGENNES — Waltonville/Sesser-Valier and Goreville left all the drama late in Tuesday’s 1A softball sectional semifinal.
Hannah Utlaut put the Lady Spartans up with a critical two-run single in the bottom of the sixth. Ahanalynn Hays countered with a game-tying home run in the top of the seventh with her team near the brink of elimination.
Goreville went on to win the contest 3-2 in eight innings.
“We have to start hitting before the sixth inning,” WSV coach John Kiselewski said. “Great team, great pitcher, I told them that. She’s one of the top pitchers we’ve seen this year. We just have to scratch something and do something before the sixth inning. We talked about that.”
The Blackcats pushed across a run in the opening inning against Lady Spartans starting pitcher Olivia Tipton. Kyndall Webb reached on an infield single to start the game. She moved up a base after a fielder’s choice.
Reese Ray followed with a single to right field. Webb scored easily on the play.
Ray shut down the Lady Spartans offense early in the circle. Goreville’s pitcher was throwing a no-hitter through five innings. WSV finally broke through in the sixth frame.
Bria Williams started the inning with a single. Tipton earned a one-out walk. The bases were loaded with two outs after Mackenzie Seddon drew a free pass.
Utlaut stepped to the plate and ripped a one-hop single to the Goreville right fielder. Williams and Tipton both scored on the play. Macy Mayer was thrown out going to third base to end the inning. Tipton scored before Mayer was tagged out, giving the Lady Spartans a 2-1 advantage.
“Just a great at-bat, (Utlaut) had a great day at the plate hitting the ball,” Kiselewski said. “Big hit, and you think you got it. And just pulled out of your grasp.”
Tipton fanned Elisabeth Trainor to start the top of the seventh. It was her four straight strikeout. She finished with 11 in the game. Hays stepped to the plate and ripped a solo homer over the right field fence to even the game 2-2.
“Tipton made a pretty good pitch, caught a little bit too much of the plate going down and away,” Kiselewski said. “She drove it. She drove it out to right field.”
Goreville grabbed the lead in the top of the eighth. Ray led off the game with a single. The senior finished with three hits in the contest. She moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt. The bases were loaded after a single and an intentional walk.
A wild pitch allowed Goreville to grab a one-run lead.
Williams started the bottom of the eighth with her second hit of the game. Ray retired three straight batters to finish the game.
“We thought about trying to get (Williams) over on a (sacrifice),” Kiselewski said. “(Laur) had popped it up the time before. She’d been pretty good the last two or three weeks slapping and looking for a hole over there. For a split second I thought she got it through. But it wasn’t the case.”
WSV finished the season with a 25-10 record. Goreville improved to 22-13 and advanced to the sectional final.
“We challenged them from day one about working harder and more (repetitions) and told them we knew they could be this good,” Kiselewski said. “Sometimes I don’t think this group knew they could be this good.”