Sports

Prep softball: Kaneland beats Providence Catholic to reach state title game

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EAST PEORIA – Both Providence Catholic and mother nature tried their best to slow the bats of the Kaneland softball team.

Neither were successful.

Kaneland pounded out 14 hits off of two Celtics pitchers and between two lightning delays for an 8-1 win in a Class 3A State Semifinal on Friday.

"I knew these girls had them in it from the get-go, but I never thought we'd be playing on a Saturday in the championship game at state," said Kaneland leadoff hitter Donatella Somessi, who went 3 for 5 and scored three times. "It's going to be the game of our lives."

The Knights advance to the championship game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

After two scoreless innings, Kaneland (27-9) exploded for four in the top of the third. Hannah Theobald singled in two, then Katie Kurzrock and Natalie Kraemer added RBIs for the lead.

In the middle of Maddy Wheatley's at-bat in the third, the lightning alarm sounded. After a break of almost an hour, Wheatley doubled.

"With all those rain delays we were having, it's concerning if you're going to be able to carry that momentum," Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler said. "Great job Maddy, first pitch, making sure we held on to that momentum."

In the bottom of the next inning, with two on and one out, the lightning alarm sounded for the second time.

But Emilee Erickson struck out Hannah Falejczyk then got Maggie Hurley popped up to left field.

Erickson didn't allow a run until the eight, with the Knights already up 8-0.

The defense behind Erickson was strong as well. Wheatley made a diving catch in the seventh with a runner on second, preventing another run to score.

Wheatley pointed to a play by center fielder Lexi Abruzzo in the third, when she covered a ton of ground and dove but couldn't come up with the catch on the edge of the grass.

"We all tried our hardest," said Wheatley, who also had three hits in the game. "Like our center fielder, she dove for a ball and didn't get there. But we're all giving 110 percent."

Somessi had a big play in the sixth, diving for a ball on the shortstop side of second base with two on and two outs in the sixth.

"It was going slow through the air, and I knew she wasn't going to get their in time," Somessi said. "I had to keep those two runs from scoring so I just laid out for it, I guess."

Kuefler said the Knights, winners of 16 straight, are beyond confident heading into the title game.

"These ladies confidence is at an all-time high and it hasn't slowed down a bit," Kuefler said. "We were a little concerned with the rain delays dropping on us but we continued to persevere and ride that wave."

By the numbers: Seven of the nine Knights starters had a hit in the game. Rose Roach was two for four with a triple, two runs and two RBIs. Hailey Roach was 2 for 3 with a run and a RBI. Providence concludes the season with a record of 28-12.

Beyond the stats: Win or lose Saturday, the Knights will finish with their highest place at a state tourney. Their previous best was a third-place showing in 2015.

They said it: "At first we were kind of nervous we'd have the same intensity," Wheatley said of the team's performance after the first weather delay. "But we came out and just had it."