MANTENO — The deck was stacked against the Coal City Lady Coalers in their first Class 3A softball postseason, but they nearly won at least two games anyway.
After surviving a play-in game to the Manteno Regional against Kankakee Monday, the Lady Coalers turned around and played Peotone Tuesday. Peotone won 30 games during the regular season, is the regional’s top seed, is state-ranked and beat Coal City 23-4 on May 10.
And yet midway through the seventh inning, the Lady Coalers were the ones leading 1-0 and seemingly bound for Saturday’s championship game. Peotone tied the game with a run in the bottom of the seventh and added another in the ninth for a 2-1 victory.
“We were in 2A last year, and coming up a class this year, with the teams in this regional, it would have been easy for us to lose in the first round,” pitcher Emily Aichele said. “To win a game and then play as well as we did today, even though we lost, I feel like it’s a big accomplishment for us.
“It would just be awesome if we had been able to keep going.”
Aichele, who pitched in the 19-run loss to the Blue Devils, held them scoreless for six innings Tuesday, and their first run did not come without controversy. Anissa Bennett was ruled safe at first after it was initially ruled the Coal City first baseman had not kept her foot on the bag.
After a sacrifice got Bennett to second, Aichele caught a hard line drive right back to her. She tried to double off Bennett, however, and her threw went into the outfield, allowing Bennett to make third base. That allowed Bennett to score on a wild pitch.
“It was a tough call. ... I felt like they had her,” Coal City coach Stephanie Harmon said. “What made me happy was that after they scored, we came back and made them play another two innings. They had to earn their other run.”
The next run scored after there were two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth. Jenna Baltazor smacked a double to left-center and came home when Emily Garstens singled into left field.
“We thought about (walking Garstens),” Harmon said. “She was 0-for-3, and everyone is good behind her. She had been behind a lot of pitches and dipping her shoulder, having a tough day, so we decided to go after her. ... We pitched around just about everyone all day, really.”
Aichele was left with the loss after pitching 8 2/3 innings before giving up her first earned run.
“I just knew they’re a good hitting team and I had to keep the ball down and be able to put it in spots where they would have trouble hitting it,” Aichele said. “I had been aware of what they had done against me in previous at-bats. Gabby (Bonic) is a very good catcher who knows what to call.”
Coal City’s run scored in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI single by Mady Bunton which brought home courtesy runner Morgan Carrigan.