After Tuesday’s Class 3A La Salle-Peru Regional matchup between the La Salle-Peru and Kankakee softball teams was washed away, the two teams were both anxious to get their postseasons started Wednesday at Veteran’s Park in Peru.
It was the No. 3-seeded Lady Cavaliers who were ready to play as they used stellar defense and opportunistic offense to advance with a 9-0 victory.
“If we play like that we can play with anybody,” L-P coach Randy Huebbe said. “Our defense was solid and after a slow start we were able to square the ball up and get the offense going.”
The Lady Cavs (19-11) advance to play No. 2 Joliet Catholic (24-8) in the regional final at 5 p.m. today. The title game was moved up due to predicted inclement weather on Friday.
The Angels advanced with a 2-1, eight-inning victory over No. 6 Coal City in Wednesday’s first semifinal.
“We are really excited to play Joliet Catholic and it should be a fun and good game,” L-P senior starting pitcher Rachel Whaley said.
The game began a bit slowly as both teams appeared a little tight.
Whaley pitched around a leadoff single to hold the No. 5 Kays scoreless in the top of the first.
Kankakee hurler Jaiden Longtin returned the favor in the bottom of the frame, setting the Lady Cavs down in order to keep the scoreboard clean.
Whaley issued a leadoff walk in the second but stranded the runner at third.
L-P cleanup hitter Brooke Shirley and No. 5 hitter Aubrie Roda each drew a walk to start the second inning.
Shirley scored on a throwing error, and after another error and a walk to load the bases with one out, Lauren Phillips smacked an RBI single to put the Lady Cavs up 2-0.
The Lady Cavs were not done as leadoff hitter Josie Walters cranked a two-run single to stake the Lady Cavs to a four-run lead after two innings.
Whaley continued to dominate in the third, allowing only a walk that was erased by a double play.
“The defense played extremely well and had my back,” Whaley said. “I didn’t feel overly strong and really had to hit my spots. When I made a mistake, my teammates made great plays.”
The Lady Cavs tacked on another run in the home half of the frame when Maddy Pagrcic popped a one-out single before racing around the bases to score on a long double off the bat of McKenna Rietgraf.
After the Lady Kays managed just a one-out Sohie Arseneau single and nothing else in the fourth, the Lady Cavs came back hungry for more runs.
Phillips hammered a leadoff triple to deep right-center field and then trotted home on a wild pitch to put La Salle-Peru up 6-0.
The Lady Cavs were far from done.
Walters recorded her second hit of the day to keep things going but was gunned down trying to steal second.
Mary Claire Tomminelo was hit by a pitch and scored on a Shirley base hit before Roda smashed a double to set up Pangrcic to drive in a pair with a single.
With the score 9-0, Whaley continued to cruise as she gave up only a single in the fifth inning and retired three batters on three pitches, highlighted by a diving catch by Shirley in left.
Kankakee brought in a new hurler, Emily Glogowski, who was able to keep the Lady Cavs off the board in the fifth and sixth innings to push the game to the seventh.
In the top half of the seventh, Whaley looked to complete her gem and preserve the shutout.
Things looked in doubt when Jenna Serena got the best contact for Kankakee all day and blasted a leadoff double.
But with the help of her defense cutting down a runner at the plate and Whaley finishing the game off with a strikeout, the shutout was preserved.
“Rachel really pitched well tonight and hit her spots, which is what she needs to do,” Huebbe said. “She looked great tonight.”
Don Baldin can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.