SPRING VALLEY — It was a pretty simple message Earlville-Leland softball coach Shannon Cook had for her team as they huddled around the pitching circle in the top half of the sixth inning. Somonauk had just cut a five-run lead to a three-run advantage with four hits plus an error and still had runners on the corners with two outs.
"I told them, 'Listen to me, you guys aren't playing your spots, and you're not getting ready when the pitches are being thrown,' " said Cook. "It was like they were scared to mess up, but I just said, 'Play the game the way you can.' "
Two pitches later, Lady Raiders starting and winning pitcher Kennedy Meloy induced a routine groundball to third, and after a perfect throw to first the threat was over. Meloy then retired the Lady Bobcats in order in the seventh to give No. 3-seeded Earlville-Leland a 9-6 victory over No. 5 seed Somonuak (16-14) here in the semifinals of the St. Bede Class 1A Regional.
E-L (16-3) now advances to Friday's 4:30 p.m. championship game against the host Lady Bruins.
The Lady Raiders had swept the two Little Ten Conference contest between the teams this season. The first snapped the Lady Bobcats' 91-game LTC winning streak, and the second was a 13-10 slugfest that saw the clubs combine for 37 hits.
"We have played and I've coached against (Somonauk coach) Scott (Siuda's) teams over the years, and I know that they are capable of putting a lot of runs on the board in a short amount of time," Cook said. "They have always been a team that you have to play solid defense to beat them, especially with how good their slap hitters are at the top of the order. We did a pretty good job with that today."
Somonauk wasted little time taking the lead, as leadoff hitter Shelby Peritore reached on an infield single, stole second and came around to score when the throw from the catcher sailed into center field. The Lady Bobcats made it 2-0 in the second as Chole Kulton drove in Claire Lamb, who had singled and stole second.
E-L got one back in the bottom half as Alexis Olson drew a walk from Lady Bobcats starter and losing pitcher Mary Seville and later scored on the first of six Somonauk errors, but the Lady Bobcats made it 3-1 in the third on an RBI base hit from Kendall Butler (4-for-4). An error allowed E-L to make it 3-2 in the home half, and then the Lady Raiders caught fire — scoring three times in the fourth and adding four more in the fifth — with all the runs being unearned as a result of four SHS miscues.
In the pair of big innings, E-L senior leadoff batter Skyler Brue had two of her three hits on the day, including an RBI hit in the fifth off SHS reliever Hailey Jansen.
"Whatever the situation is, when I come up to bat I'm only thinking about getting on base however I can," Brue said. "There were times today that I felt a little anxious, but I knew as a team we could do it, and we did."
Somonauk's Kylie Butler led off the sixth with a single and later scored on a hit by Katy Tripp to make it 9-5. Lauren Kawall also scored on an error after reaching on an infield hit before Meloy was able to work out of trouble.
"I'm proud of the girls. We had lost six starters coming into the season, and many of these girls had been waiting their turn," said Siuda.
"We compounded things after errors today ... errors are going to happen, but after that you have to find a way to regroup and make the next play. We struggled fundamentally in the field, which was disappointing because we had just played a 4A school in Shepherd at Barrington last weekend and played a beautiful, flawless game.
"We had the momentum early for sure, then E-L grabbed it in the fourth, and from there we just couldn't get it completely back. Kudos to Shannon and her team, they are a very disciplined ballclub, and they aren't scared to swing the bat."
At St. Bede Academy, Spring Valley
Earlville-Leland 9, Somonauk 6
SOMONAUK (6) — Peritore ss 3-1-1-0, Kawall 2b 4-2-2-0, Tripp cf 3-1-2-1, Ke. Butler 1b 4-0-4-1, Seville p 1-0-0-0, Jansen p 1-0-0-1, Lamb lf 4-1-1-0, Kulton 3b 4-0-1-1, Hendron c 3-0-0-0, Dayhuff ph 1-0-0-0, Ky. Butler rf 3-1-2-0. Totals 31-6-13-4.
EARLVILLE-LELAND (9) — Brue ss 4-2-3-2, Weymouth c 4-0-2-0, Guelde cr 0-2-0-0, Pickert 1b 3-0-0-0, Browder 3b 3-1-0-1, Meloy p 4-0-0-0, Kuter cr 0-0-0-0, Olson 2b 3-1-1-0, Harness rf 4-0-1-0, Niles cf 4-1-0-0, Myers lf 3-2-2-0. Totals 32-9-9-3.
Somonauk (16-14) 111 012 0 — 6 13 6
Earlville-Leland (16-3) 011 340 x — 9 9 3
LOB — Somonauk 8, Earlville-Leland 9. SB — Peritore, Lamb, Guelde, Pickert, Niles, Myers. SAC — Tripp, Seville. SF — Jansen. HBP — Pickert (by Seville).
Somonauk ip r er h bb k
Seville (L) 3+ 5 1 6 3 1
Jansen 3.0 4 0 3 0 1
Meloy (W) 7.0 6 5 13 1 3