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Softball: Tinley Park thwarts Oak Forest

Tinley Park's AlyssGunther holds up Regional Championship trophy after defeating Oak Forest Oak Forest High School Saturday May 24 2013.

Tinley Park's Alyssa Gunther holds up the Regional Championship trophy after defeating Oak Forest at Oak Forest High School on Saturday May 24, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 27, 2013 7:11AM



Tinley Park’s Alex Laphen was way off on one declaration after Saturday’s 1-0 Class 3A regional championship victory over host Oak Forest.

“We’re going to Disney World!”

No. Not even close. The Titans (20-7) are going to Coal City for a sectional semifinal meeting on Tuesday with Lincoln-Way West.

Laphen, however, knew exactly where she was going after being hit by an Emily Larsen pitch leading off the second.

The speedy freshman stole second base. She later scored when Megan Laib’s two-out pop fly just behind the infield popped out of the glove of tumbling Bengals defender Shannon Coyle.

That was all the offense pitcher Sarah Gillespie needed. The right-hander was far from dominant, but she was cool under pressure when the Bengals had runners in scoring position in four of the seven innings.

Gillespie finished with four strikeouts and a five-hit shutout.

“I was just thinking that I wanted to pick up my team,” Gillespie said. “I wanted us to keep going. I didn’t want our season to end. I was just trying to stay calm and do my thing.”

The Bengals (21-15), who put 11 runs on the board Thursday in a regional semifinal win over Bremen, threatened right away when with one out in the top of the first, Ashley Benninger beat out an infield single and Kylie Powers was hit by a pitch.

Gillespie then set the tone for her day when she retired Taylor Sterkowitz on a soft popup to the circle and Coyle on a grounder to first baseman Alyssa Williams.

Oak Forest’s best chance to score came in the top of the fifth, when with one out Courtney Schwenkel, Marissa Padilla and Brianna Getzloff all singled to load the bases.

Gillespie’s response? She retired Benninger on a soft liner and Kylie Powers on a grounder, in both cases to shortstop Alyssa Gunther.

In all, Gillespie stranded seven Bengals.

Cool as a cucumber.

“I just kept telling her to keep her head in the game and she’s got it,” said Laphen, the Titans’ catcher. “She’s gotten it for us all year.”

Larsen ended her varsity career at Oak Forest with a three-hitter. The left-hander struck out five.



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