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Lady Panthers suffer second loss at state tournament

  • The Pinckneyville High School softball team poses with the IHSA Class 2A state tournament fourth-place trophy Saturday in East Peoria.

    The Pinckneyville High School softball team poses with the IHSA Class 2A state tournament fourth-place trophy Saturday in East Peoria.
    All photos by Justin Walker

updated: 6/4/2018 3:50 AM

EAST PEORIA -- The Pinckneyville High School softball team left Eastside Centre with two losses in the IHSA's Class 2A state finals for the second straight year after falling to Williamsville, 6-3, in the third-place game Saturday.

The Lady Panthers saw their tremendous season end at 33-6 with a two-game losing streak after getting stunned by Rockridge in Friday's semifinals in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Pinckneyville seemed poised to take home third place after Daisy Dudek led off Saturday's game with a home run to center field, but the Bullets scored two in the bottom half and rallied again after the Lady Panthers took the lead briefly in the third.

"This is a hard game to play," said Pinckneyville coach Alan Engelhardt. "Especially the way we lost yesterday. It's hard but I couldn't be any prouder of our kids because we did come out and compete even though it was a difficult game for us."

After Dudek's homer, the Lady Panthers put three runners on base in the first inning against hurler Payton Long but couldn't add to the run total.

In the bottom half, Mackenzie McCormick led off with a double and Emma Walbert reached on an error, then Emma Newton doubled and two runs scored with the help of a miscue on the play.

Pinckneyville went ahead in the third after Dudek walked and Taylor Witges singled. Josie Gleason had an RBI single and Emma Banach plated a run in the frame.

Williamsville went ahead to stay with three in the fourth after collecting four hits against Pinckeyville hurler Mariah Clark. Ryllie Yard and McCormick both doubled in the rally and Danielle Dennis ripped a two-run single.

"We were having a hard time with a narrower strike zone," Engelhardt said. "We had to come after them and they can swing it. They did a nice job of getting the bat on the ball. We limited the damage a couple times too, but they had a couple swings that really hurt us."

Dudek relieved Clark in the circle and pitched two innings. A leadoff walk in the sixth led to Dennis popping a single to collect her third RBI of the game.

Dudek doubled and Witges singled in the sixth but were both stranded and the Lady Panthers brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh but pinch-hitter Hannah Dascotte grounded out to end the game.

"I think sometimes we got caught trying too hard," Engelhardt said. "You can't fault the kids for trying too hard. One of the things a lot of these kids will learn sometime, and even the seniors, is their good is good enough. I don't think they realize that yet. They popped up a couple times in big situations just trying too hard and trying to do too much."

And now Pinckneyville's seven seniors have played their last game together. It was quite a run for Clark, Dudek, Banach, Gleason, Megan Mayo, Kylee Kling and Lydia Pestka.

"It's going to be a big hole losing them," Engelhardt said. "They're good kids, too. They want to do what's right and they try to do that. I can't stress that side of it enough. All of our kids are great kids.

"You hope these guys leave a legacy for the younger kids."

Dudek and Witges finished with two hits, while Clark, Gleason, Mayo and Lynlee Lindner all had hits against the Bullets, who finished at 34-6.

For a bit of added sting, the Lady Panthers had to play after seeing Rockridge win the state championship with a 5-2 win over Beecher, knowing they were two outs away from beating Rockridge a day earlier.

"We felt like and we still feel like there were four very evenly-matched teams up here," Engelhardt said. "We felt like we could be the best of them. Obviously that didn't happen for us. And it hurts. I know the kids are frustrated."