SHABBONA — The guessing game of who was going to score first at the Class 1A Indian Creek Sectional championship Thursday in Shabbona wasn't answered until the fourth inning.
St. Bede and Marquette couldn't get the offense going as there was only one hit — from SBA senior Gianna Elias — in the first three innings.
However, the Lady Bruins changed their goose egg on the scoreboard in the fourth and had a huge fifth inning to beat the Lady Crusaders 7-1 and win their second straight sectional title.
The Illinois Wesleyan Super Sectional will be 11 a.m. Monday between St. Bede and the winner of Salt Fork and Villa Grove in the St. Thomas Moore Sectional at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"Coming in we were really anxious because we knew (Marquette) didn't give up any runs in the postseason, but we knew we couldn't have a negative mindset going into it," junior second baseman Ellyn Nowakowski said. "We came in and just played our game. We had a good outcome.
"We knew Abbie May has had a heck of a season, so we all had to stand behind her. We did a really good job tonight."
SBA aided May, its ace pitcher, at the plate and defensively.
Defensively, the Lady Bruins (19-9) didn't commit an error while offensively they had timely hits and took advantage of the Lady Crusaders' three errors, which led to seven unearned runs.
In the fourth inning, Elias recorded her second single with one out already in the books. After SBA's second out, Nowakowski was walked to put runners on first and second.
May belted a shot to left field that was misplayed, allowing Elias and Nowakowski to score to give SBA a 2-0 lead.
Lady Crusaders' pitcher MaKenna Tkach took the loss after allowing seven runs — none earned — on five hits while striking out 11 and walking two.
"They hit the ball better than we did. I told the girls, 'It wasn't one thing that cost us the game,'" MA coach David Tkach said. "We didn't hit the ball and we gave them too many at-bats. We know it.”
The fifth inning saw a conversation with the three umpires and SBA coach Rob Ruppert followed by a meeting with Tkach and the umpires.
On a ground ball hit by Lady Bruins catcher Charleigh Holmes, the initial call was she was out at first. After Ruppert objected, the officials overturned the call and Holmes returned to first.
The call reversal infuriated Tkach, who came out to first base and argued about the call until he was asked to return to the dugout.
"I told other coaches and the umpires earlier, 'It will be a pitching dual and the team that makes the least errors will probably prevail,'" Tkach said. "That's exactly what happened. We gave St. Bede, which is a good team, more confidence because they had more outs in an inning than they should have had by our errors or on questionable calls."
Holmes was the second out of the inning as she was picked off at third on a steal attempt, but the Lady Bruins had just begun their fifth-inning offensive surge.
Senior shortstop Maggie Sons was walked and Claire Morrow reached on an error. Sons stole third and was brought in on Marquette's second miscue of the fifth inning when Elias put the ball in play. SBA loaded the bases when Hayley Short was hit by a pitch.
During Nowakowski's at-bat, Morrow scored on a past ball.
Then three more runs scored as Nowakowski hit a three-run home run over the center-field fence, bringing in Elias, Short and herself to give SBA a 7-0 lead over Marquette (22-6).
"I came up to the plate and I knew I had a role to do," Nowakowski said. "I kept a positive mind and gave it a hit. It just happened to go out."
For the second game in a row, the Lady Bruins offense has come in bunches in later innings.
Ruppert knows the beginning of the game is a feeling out period and knows his team can put runs on the scoreboard.
"It feels real good. Marquette gave us a heck of a game," Ruppert said. "It was a pretty tight game for the first four innings. We were able to scratch a few runs out and a big home run from Ellyn carried us. It's a good feeling. We've been working hard all year. This is what we're working for.
"Sometimes you have to feel the pitcher out and see what she is throwing, make adjustments at the plate and keep working at it. That's what we did the last two nights and through the regional. I have to give the girls credit for working hard all year, making the adjustments and coming out on top."
May earned the win in the circle as she allowed one earned run (in the seventh inning) on two hits with 12 strikeouts and one walk.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.