Softball: Manteno’s late show stuns Lincoln-Way West
By Bill Harrison For Sun-Times Media May 31, 2014 3:48PM
Lincoln-Way West's Morghan Dieringer (15) and coach Heather Novak walk off the field after the loss to Manteno. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2014 2:50PM
When Manteno’s Kiley Zajdzinski strode to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score tied at 4 with two outs and runners on first and second, she wasn’t having a very good day to that point.
She struck out four times and had a throwing error that enabled the first Lincoln-Way West run to score. Her coaches and teammates later said after they knew her day was going to change.
Did it ever.
Zajdzinski sent a 2-and-2 pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run walk-off home run and a 7-4 Manteno victory over the host Warriors for the Class 3A Lincoln-Way West Regional championship.
It’s the first regional title for the Panthers (35-1) since 2005.
“My team picked me up and got me going again,” Zajdzinski said.
Manteno will host Peotone on Wednesday in a sectional semifinal. The Panthers won both meetings this season. Lincoln-Way West closes the books at 31-4.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jackie Beck (2-for-4) singled and stole second. Carly Trepanier was intentionally walked to set the stage for Zajdzinski’s dramatic blow.
“I never thought about pinch-hitting for her,” Manteno coach Josh Carlile said.
The Warriors took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth after a two-run triple by Emily Ray capped a three-run inning. The Panthers made three errors in the inning but Trepanier redeemed her one error with a diving play up the middle for the final out, saving a run.
West’s lead increased to 4-1 in the fifth after two more errors and an RBI single by Amanda Ruskowsky scored Dani Morgan (2-for-4). Second baseman Selena Schulteis made a diving stop to her left to end the threat, preventing yet another run from scoring.
Trepanier brought the visiting crowd back to life with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth that tied the game at 4.
Brooke Stulga (2-for-2), who homered in the second, recorded the win. Kierstynn Kinast had two hits for the Panthers, while Kayla Seymour had hits for the Warriors.
Senior starters Dieringer, Rachael Luckett (double), and Anna Ryan end one of the most successful seasons in Warriors’ history.
“I don’t think anybody expected this to be as high-scoring as it was,” West coach Heather Novak said. “I’m proud of the girls and everything they accomplished. We had three very special seniors who really made an impact on our program.”