The La Salle-Peru softball team couldn't have asked for a much better start Thursday in the Class 3A La Salle-Peru Regional championship.
Josie Walters led off with a single, and after a pop out, Kaitlyn Gibson blasted a two-run home run to give the No. 3-seeded Lady Cavaliers an early lead.
In the bottom of the first inning, Lauren Phillips made a diving stop at second base on Joliet Catholic leadoff hitter Hannah Antzoulatos grounder and threw to first for an out before the inning ended on a double play.
“We held our ground on defense,” Walters said about the strong start. “We had hits and Gibby hit a home run. We were uplifted by that and we kept it up the whole game.”
However, L-P couldn’t sustain the early momentum as the No. 2 Angels came away with a 7-6 victory.
“I couldn't be more proud of the way they played,” L-P coach Randy Huebbe said. “They didn't quit. They were aggressive. They came together. These last two days (in the regional), if we played like that all year I don't know if we would have lost too many games.”
The Lady Cavs maintained their 2-0 lead until the bottom of the third inning.
Antzoulatos led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Jen Krizka.
Andrea Broniewicz then smashed a two-run homer to centerfield to put the Angels up 3-2.
Jolee Santiago and Britney Lewinski each added an RBI double in the frame to give JCA a 5-2 advantage.
Krizba connected on a solo homer in the fourth to extend JCA’s lead to 6-2.
“We usually have one bad inning somewhere, but we really didn't do that,” Huebbe said. “That’s a good hitting team.
“We weren’t going to pitch to (Krizka), but we did and it was a mistake. She hit a bomb.”
The Lady Cavs responded in the sixth.
Gibson was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Brooke Shirley and Aubrie Roda followed with singles to load the bases.
Maddy Pangrcic scorched line drive down the left field line to score Gibson and Shirley. Phillips added a two-run single of her own later in the inning to tie the game at 6-6.
“We just never quit and we played as a team,” said Walters, who finished 3-for-4 with a run.
In the bottom of the sixth, Krizka ripped an RBI double to put the Angels (25-8) ahead for good.
Rachel Whaley took the loss in the circle for L-P (19-12).
Thursday’s loss marked the end of the prep careers for eight L-P seniors — Roda, Walters, Whaley, Olivia Wright, Mary Claire Tomminello, McKenna Rietgraf, Samantha Rose and Emma Barrie.
“I couldn't be more proud of the seniors,” Huebbe said. “They accepted everyone. They did their job.
“I’m going to miss these girls. I hope they pass on to the girls coming up the never quit mentality.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.