GLEN ELLYN – It’s been a long time coming for St. Charles East softball.
But, as the pattern has gone so far this postseason, the Saints are a patient team.
Top-seeded East used more late-inning heroics to overcome a feisty Conant squad to defeat the Cougars, 4-1, in the championship game of the IHSA Class 4A Glenbard West Regional on Saturday morning.
It was the first regional title for Saints coach Kelly Horan and the first for the program since the 2002 season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team and this group of young women who represent our school the way they have,” Horan said. “They play with heart, they play with class and they absolutely deserve the win they got here today.”
East (29-5) found itself in 1-0 hole right at the start as Saints pitcher Haley Beno gave up a two-out home run in the first inning, but the Saints were able to tie the score in the third when Olivia Lorenzini delivered an RBI single to left field, allowing Olivia Cheatham (single) to score.
East’s offense then went silent and the Saints left six runners on base leading up to the sixth inning.
“We were hitting the ball hard, but it was right at people, and sometimes that happens,” Horan said. “But we kept fighting hard and eventually we started finding holes.”
After Katie Kolb led off the sixth with a lineout to the second baseman, East’s offense came alive for three crucial runs.
Kate Peterburs connected for a double to left field and came around to score in what ended being the winning run on Sarah Collalti’s double to center.
“I’m a very relaxed hitter so I just knew that once I got my first strike I was going to drive it to the outfield and bring in the winning run,” Collati said. “Sometimes it takes us a little time to adjust, but we’re a very good hitting team and we did a nice job of coming back in this game.”
Two more runs came across in the frame when Collalti scored on Lexi Perez’s bloop single to left field and Cheatham scored on Tess Hupe’s fielder’s choice.
“We had a fantastic game plan and our kids executed it great,” Horan said. “They kept coming and didn’t quit, and that was the difference.”
Horan termed Collalti ‘Steady Eddy’ and was proud of how she came through in the clutch.
“She never wavers and never gets nervous,” Horan said. “That was a great (sixth) inning. For Katie to lead off with the double and Sarah to drive her in was great. It was the bottom of the order that produced our offense, so that was really important.”
East moves on to its own sectional semifinal where it will face Bartlett, a 3-1 winner over Lake Park, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“Being able to play on our home field is amazing," Collalti said. "Hopefully we can keep on winning and go on to state.”