The St. Edmond softball team saved their best defensive plays for last Thursday night, turning two inning-ending double plays to survive and advance with a 5-4 victory over Prairie Valley in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal at Rogers Park.
The Gaels (23-10 overall) will face Ridge View this evening in a semifinal affair. Ridge View (17-12) topped Alta/Aurelia last night, 8-7.
St. Edmond's scoreboard displayed four errors, but none of them mattered after what happened to end the sixth and seventh innings.
With two runners on, Cassidy Brinkman launched a shot into the outfield for the Warriors (21-13) that looked like it would clear the bases and tie the game. However, St. Edmond freshman Jaci Stumpf covered what seemed to be the entire outfield grass, grabbing the ball and tossing it back in.
Neither Prairie Valley runner had realized the ball was caught, resulting in an easy double play.
With the bases loaded in the seventh, and the Gaels up by one, Lexi Peed caught a hot-shot off the bat of Cally Duncan and turned around to step on third, ending the game and advancing St. Edmond to the next round.
ST. EDMOND 5, PRAIRIE VALLEY 4
Prairie Valley003 000 1 - 4 11 2
St. Edmond211 010 x - 5 8 4
Cassidy Brinkman (L, 17-9, 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 K, 1 BB), Natalie Lambert (5, 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 K) and Josie Lambert, Allie Berg (4); Katie Donnelly (W, 17-6, 7 IP, 1 ER, 11 H, 5 K, 4 BB) and Jessica Kuebler. HR - SE: Timmi Dencklau. 2B - SE: Allie Oberg (2). RBI - PV: Brinkman; SE: Dencklau (3), Kuebler. Multiple hitters - PV: Marlee Walker (3), Clara Pearson (3); SE: Oberg (3), Dencklau (3). SB - PV: Walker, Pearson (2), Erica Rittgers, Cassie Zinnel, Taylor Montgomery; SE: Oberg (2), Katie Ahlers, Brigid Hanley (2).
"We do a lot of situational stuff during practice and it really paid off for us (Thursday)," a relieved SEHS head coach Paul Hunt said. "What a great job by Lexi, and I've said it all year that I think Jaci is one of the best outfielders playing the game. The amount of area that she can cover is incredible.
"Not too many other outfielders could have gotten to that ball."
Katie Donnelly (17-6) tossed all seven innings to earn the win, striking out five and allowing just one earned run.
Timmi Dencklau had the biggest offensive hit of the game, launching a two-run homer in the first after Allie Oberg doubled. Dencklau finished 3-for-3 with three RBI. Oberg was also 3-for-3 with two doubles, three runs scored and a pair of steals.
"Timmi got a perfect pitch and just made great contact," Hunt said. "It seems like when we score first in games, we have a lot of success. Getting those early runs settled the girls down a little and allowed us to put the pressure on (Prairie Valley)."
Marlee Walker and Clara Pearson led the Warriors with three hits each, while Pearson added her 37th and 38th successful stolen bases of the year. Pearson, just a sophomore, has 93 career RBI and 75 steals over the past three seasons.
"Prairie Valley is a great program and coach (Brian) Gleason does a tremendous job," Hunt said. "We knew it would be an incredible game and a tough challenge, and we are just happy to be moving on."
St. Edmond was defeated by Jefferson-Scranton, 6-5, in a regional semifinal last year.