AURORA – The Rosary softball team surprised Kaneland in Saturday’s IHSA Class 3A Rosary Regional championship game, collecting a 7-0 lead through six innings.
The Knights finally awakened in the bottom of the seventh inning, rallying for six runs, but fell short, dropping a heartbreaking 7-6 decision.
Kaneland finishes 23-4 while Rosary improved to 13-18 ahead of Wednesday's Rochelle Sectional semifinal against Marengo.
“This bunch of girls showed a lot of character because if you go down swinging and battle to the end you have nothing to be ashamed of,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “It’s the epitome of these girls, especially the seniors. They never quit. We gave them a 7-0 lead but fought until the last out.”
Rosary showed off its bats in the early going. The Royals scored a run in the second and added two in the fourth, one coming on a solo home run from Sam Phelps. They delivered their biggest blow in the fifth inning when Lauren Murray connected on a three-run home run.
“I told the girls that if you play solid defense you can stay in games, and now we’re hitting,” Rosary coach John Kazmierczak said. “It’s been a tough spring but we’ve kept battling.”
The teams met recently for a doubleheader, and the Knights swept the Royals, outscoring them 25-9 on a day where the teams combined for 52 hits.
The Knights were able to collect their fair share of hits in this contest, but couldn’t plate anything until the seventh inning.
“We were hitting the ball well but we hit a lot of balls right at them,” Willis said. “If we hit them another foot this way or that we might’ve scored a couple of runs, plus we didn’t get any clutch hits. We left several runners on base before the seventh inning.”
A three-run home run from catcher Paige Kuefler, followed by a solo blast from Sarah Grams to pull the Knights to within 7-5. Meg Cohrs and Haley Contoro added doubles in the seventh inning to pull the Knights within 7-6, but they couldn't come all the way back.
Lanie Callaghan paced the Knights with three hits, while Lexi Roach, Cohrs and Allie Miller each chipped in with two hits for a Kaneland team that stranded nine baserunners.
Phelps, Emma Molenhouse and winning pitcher Elayne Young contributed two hits a piece in the winning effort for the Royals.
“The girls are pretty ecstatic,” Kazmierczak said. “It took a team effort, and it went really well. This is pretty exciting.”