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Kaneland softball zooms past Sandwich to advance to finals

AURORA – Left fielder Lexi Roach tagged up too soon from third base in the bottom of the first inning. Right-hander Ellissa Eckert uncorked an illegal pitch in the top of the second.

What amounted to adversity for the Kaneland softball team transpired early in Tuesday’s 3A Rosary Regional semifinal. By the time Sandwich could even think about capitalizing, the Knights already had moved past their problems, zooming to a 10-0 victory in five innings.

“We just wanted to come out strong and win this game like we can. We wanted to play like we can, make outs like we can, hit like we can,” second baseman Allie Miller said. “Everything like we knew we could do.”

Kaneland (23-3) advanced to Saturday’s regional final against the winner of today’s semifinal between Rosary and Plano, where the Knights once again could perform a feat already in their arsenal.

Kaneland swept Rosary by a combined score of 26-9 in a doubleheader Saturday and defeated Plano earlier this season.

“We have five more games until [the] state [championship game], and I definitely think that we can get there with our confidence and intensity level,” Knights catcher Paige Kuefler said.

Eckert – one of six seniors and 14 upperclassmen on the team – allowed only two Indians to reach base. Trailing, 6-0, in the third, Sandwich (5-22) used a Jilana Cech walk and Tori Thompson infield single to mount its lone threat with two outs.

A groundout to shortstop Allyson O’Herron ended any further drama, as Eckert retired 15 of the 17 batters she faced, including six via strikeout.

“She did really well today hitting her spots,” Kuefler said. “Hitting her spots is a really big thing for her.”

Sandwich sophomore righty Shannen Sutherland wasn’t as effective, allowing 13 hits with zero strikeouts.

Although Roach and O’Herron coaxed consecutive bases-loaded walks to cap a three-run fifth that triggered the run rule, Kaneland did much of its damage by being aggressive early in counts.

Freshman third baseman Meg Cohrs smacked a two-run, opposite field triple to right on the first pitch as part of a five-run third. Miller was 3 for 3 and scored three runs. Designated player Caroline Heimerdinger had two hits and two RBIs. Center fielder Lanie Callaghan reached Sutherland for a two-run single.

“She had some spin on the ball that we couldn’t really pick up at first, but by the end of the game, we were hitting that ball,” Miller said. “We knew exactly where it was.”

Sandwich battered IMSA for 27 runs in five innings during Monday’s opening-round contest, which Indians coach Jessica Gale ultimately dubbed a detriment.

“I don’t even know that I would classify them as a freshman-level pitcher, what we saw on Monday. … And I think that almost does us a disservice getting ready for today,” Gale said.

With a glut of make-ups added late in the season, Sandwich had not practiced for about a week.

Kaneland did similar hustling as a result of inclement weather. On Tuesday, the Knights simply kept moving.

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