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Daily Journal
     June 9, 2021      #75-160 KDJ
 
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Beecher downed by JCA in sectional semis 

By Mason Schweizer
mschweizer@daily-journal.com


BEECHER — When COVID-19 took away IHSA spring sports last season, it did something no softball team in Illinois had been able to do since 2016 — keep the Beecher Bobcats from making the state finals.

After last year’s hiatus, the resumption of the state series this year will be without the Bobcats after Joliet Catholic Academy scored the game’s first four runs and then went wild for seven more in the sixth inning to eliminate the defending IHSA Class 2A State champions with a six-inning, 11-1 victory at Beecher in the IHSA Class 2A Sectional semifinals Tuesday.

“I’m really proud of our young team for being able to win a regional and advance to a sectional, but today, we just didn’t gel offensively, defensively or with our pitching,” Bobcats coach Kevin Hayhurst said. “They got us on our own field, so credit to Joliet Catholic.”

The Angels struck first with a two-out, solo home run from Morgan Bruno and then seized early control when Wrigley Fanter connected with a two-out homer in the third, a three-run shot, to put the Angels up 4-0 as the game approached its middle stages.

The Bobcats struggled to muster up much offense early on, recording just one hit during the game’s first three innings. When the Bobcats did manage to square one up on Angels ace Andie Broniewicz, the Joliet Catholic defense largely held strong behind her.

“Their pitcher was around the strike zone all day long, inside and outside, and did a nice job going up and down,” Hayhurst said. “And when we did hit some nice balls, they made nice plays behind her.

“We did have a couple chances to put some runs up, but she bowed her neck, and her defense was strong behind her.”

The Bobcats’ biggest chance came when they pushed across their lone run in the fifth, when Alyssa Hon scored on Ashlyn Rapacz’s hard-hit grounder to third. They had the bases loaded after that but couldn’t do any further damage.

In the sixth, the Angels busted the gate wide open, scoring seven runs off a combination of junior Abby Shepard and freshman Cynthia Hon, an affair highlighted by a three-run blast by Bruno.

Hayhurst credited Shepard, who started the game, for settling in after allowing the two early homers, as she had at one point gone on to retire 10 straight batters in the game, and noted both of his pitchers will be back next season.

“[Shepard] showed mental toughness and that she’s learned how to pitch; she obviously missed last year and has done a great job with minimal experience,” Hayhurst said. “You look at the end of the year and her ball is really moving, and I think she’ll be a lot stronger next year, along with our freshman, Cynthia, coming back as pitchers.”

As Hayhurst addressed his Bobcats after the game, the Angels celebrated a momentous victory coach Tina Kinsella, who said she long has admired Hayhurst and even watched him speak at clinics, said she thinks is an indicator of good things to come, not just in Thursday’s sectional championship at Manteno but in the long-term as well.

“I am so proud of each and every one of [the players],” Kinsella said. “We’ve been going with a steady lineup of mostly underclassmen with just three seniors — at pitcher, catcher and centerfield. … I am super excited because it just shows what the future holds not just for this year but for years ahead.”

As for the Bobcats, who had won two of the last three Class 2A state championships in 2017 and 2019, with a second-place finish in 2018, Hayhurst re-emphasized how valuable the team’s experience they gained this season was, and that his roster is full of players eager to get back down to state after finishing this year with a 21-5 record.

“Like I said, for such a young group, I’m happy for them to win a regional,” Hayhurst said. “But this isn’t how they wanted to go out, so I hope they come back next year with a chip on their shoulders.”

STAT BOOK

Alyssa Hon had a pair of hits in addition to scoring the Bobcats’ only run. Alyssa Oldenburg, Cheyanna Stluka and Morgan McDermott added a hit each. Shepard allowed six earned runs on six hits and three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Broniewicz allowed an unearned run on five hits and four strikeouts in a complete game. Bruno totaled four RBIs and a pair of runs on her two homers, and Fanter totaled five RBIs and two runs on her homer and a double.

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