SENECA — One pitch.
That was all that separated Seneca's Annie Krull from Reed-Custer's Antoinette Hill, a Purdue University recruit, Saturday afternoon in the title game of the Class 2A Seneca regional championship.
But that one pitch was enough, as Reed-Custer's Kelsi Dillon led off the top of the fifth inning of a scoreless game and deposited a 1-2 pitch over the fence in left field for a solo homer. Hill made it stand up, allowing just two hits in going the distance to give the Lady Comets a 1-0 win and send them to take on Peotone on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Reed-Custer 2A Sectional.
"It was one pitch," Seneca coach Dan Stecken said. "It wasn't even a bad pitch, either. Annie put it right where we wanted her to. Their girl just got a good swing on it. Annie went out there today and matched a Division I pitcher pitch for pitch.
"Hill's dropball was on, and we hit a lot of groundballs, but we just couldn't get any of them through the infield."
Hilll and the Comet defense figured out how to slow down the relentless Seneca running game — if they aren't on base, they can't run.
Hill struck out just four, but the defense made the plays behind her. Shortstop Meghan Faletti made a pair of nice plays to nip Seneca runners at first and, in the bottom of the second inning, Abe Jashari led off with a single for the Irish (30-6), but was picked off first on a throw from catcher Dillon. Jashari sped for second, but first baseman Caila Kmetz threw to second baseman Kaylee Thompson in time to tag Jashari.
In the bottom of the fifth with one out, Gillian Culbreath reached second on a throwing error, but was unable to advance after a liner to second and a then a ball hit by Zoe Hougas tipped off of Hill's glove and bounced to Thompson at second. Thompson's throw narrowly beat Hougas as Culbreath rounded third and likely would have scored had the call gone the other way at first.
In the bottom of the sixth, pinch-hitter Paige Carpenter reached on a fielding error, but was called out when a grounder hit by Grace Flatness hit Carpenter when she was in the basepath, giving Flatness credit for a hit. Flatness was replaced by pinch-runner Ashley Arwood, who stole second, but was left stranded on a grounder to first.
"We needed a key hit a couple of times, but we just didn't get it," Stecken said. "Hill is a tough pitcher, and we knew that coming in. We were hoping we could put the ball in play and put some pressure on their defense, but their defense made the plays."
Even with the loss, it was hard to be disappointed with the season, according to Stecken.
"This was a year that a lot of people thought would be a rebuilding year for us, and we still won 30 games," he asid. "We did a lot of positive things this year with a lot of young players on the field. We will miss our seniors next year, but our juniors — Grace Flatness, Annie Krull, Cassidy Draves and Claudia Morris — got a lot of good experience as varsity players, and I know Maggie Carpenter will be back ready to go next year, too.
"Hopefully, this bad taste right now will carry over for those girls that are coming back and make them hungry to have more success next year. Overall, though, it was a real good season for us."
Reed-Custer 1, Seneca 0
REED-CUSTER (1) — Faletti ss 3-0-0-0, Ricketts cf 3-0-1-0, Hill p 1-0-0-0, Kmetz 1b 3-0-0-0, Dillon c 3-1-1-1, Thompson 2b 3-0-0-0, Crater dp 3-0-1-0, Shaw lf 0-0-0-0, Cieslak rf 3-0-0-0, Coster 3b 2-0-0-0. Totals 24-1-3-1.
SENECA (0) — Flatness lf 3-0-1-0, Arwood pr 0-0-0-0, Winsor 1b 3-0-0-0, Draves c 3-0-0-0, Jashari 2b 3-0-1-0, Culbreth 3b 3-0-0-0, Klicker cf 2-0-0-0, Hougas rf 2-0-0-0, Morris ss 2-0-0-0, Krull p 1-0-0-0, Carpenter ph 1-0-0-0, Bland pr 0-0-0-0. Totals 23-0-2-0.
Reed-Custer (15-11) 000 010 0 — 1 3 2
Seneca (30-6) 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
LOB — Reed-Custer 4; Seneca 2. HR — Dillon. SB — Arwood. CS — Jashari.
Reed-Custer ip r er h bb k
Hill (W) 7 0 0 2 0 4
Krull (L, 16-5) 7 1 1 3 2 4