ROCHELLE – The Rosary softball team played above its sub-.500 record after storming through the postseason – including an upset of top-seeded Kaneland in the regional finals – and made it to Wednesday’s 3A Rochelle Sectional semifinal against Marengo.
The Indians rode a three-run first inning and dominant pitching from starter Bethany Hart to defeat Rosary, 6-1, but the Royals’ strong effort earned the praise of opposing head coach Dwain Nance.
“Dwain gave me a great compliment at the end of the game,” Royals coach John Kazmierczak said. “He said, ‘You’re the best 13-18 team in the state.’ I was glad to hear that.”
Hart struck out six of the first nine Rosary batters and didn’t allow a hit through three innings, but the Royals (13-19) strung together thee consecutive hits in the fourth, which led to their only run of the game.
Katelyn Groom led off the inning by grounding out to Hart for the 10th straight out, but Emma Molenhouse singled and later scored after Cara Smoczynski’s single moved her into scoring position and Samantha Phelps drove Molenhouse home.
Hart worked out of the inning with no further damage and continued to dominate the Royals who managed only one more hit when Smoczynski singled in the sixth.
“[Hart] got us,” Kazmierczak said after Hart struck out 13 batters and only walked one. “I think there is only one other girl who threw that well against us and it was probably [Stephanie] Prentice from Oswego and that’s a [Class] 4A pitcher.”
The Royals made her work on the mound, however, as Hart tossed 102 pitches largely from the amount of long at-bats as Rosary challenged the 29-9 Indians.
Phelps’ RBI single came on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, which was the third of the game that lasted nine or more pitches.
Smoczysnki, a Wisconsin-Whitewater recruit, had two of the four Royals’ hits and started the game on the mound and pitched four innings of five-run ball.
“We just told ourselves to keep our heads up,” she said. “We’re the underdogs coming from behind. We just wanted to come in here with energy because it has taken us this far.”