The IVCC women’s softball team lost a battle, but won the war.
After opening Tuesday’s best-of-three-game Region IV Tournament quarterfinal series in Oglesby with a 1-0 win against Black Hawk, the Eagles suffered a 5-3 loss to the Braves in the second game.
“It’s a miserable feeling to have that third game happen,” said IVCC coach Cory Tomaason. “To win that first one you breathe a little easier, but then to lose that second game it takes a little wind out of you and they get the momentum going.”
But IVCC managed to retake the momentum and rebound from the second-game setback to complete the series win with an 8-7 victory in the rubber match.
With the quarterfinal victory, second-seeded IVCC advances to the Region IV Final Four Friday in Freeport, where they will face Sauk Valley, 7-1, 6-0 winners over Elgin on Tuesday.
“It’s been a long day,” summed up IVCC’s Karly Huss, who pitched a complete-game win in the third contest after working two innings of relief in the second game.
“We weren’t too excited about going to three games, but none of us wanted to be done today. So my tiredness got overridden by our excitement of winning and getting to the next set,” Huss said.
IVCC 8, Black Hawk 7
The Eagles got just enough offense in the middle innings of the third game to hold off a late Black Hawk run.
IVCC’s bats broke out with a four-run third to take a 6-2 advantage and the Eagles added another pair of insurance tallies in the fourth on a 2-RBI single down the third base line from Linday Schmitz.
Undeterred, the Braves battled back with a four-run sixth highlighted by a 2-RBI double off the centerfield fence from Emily Medinger to pull to 8-5.
The Black Hawk rally continued in the seventh as Jenna Winthurst roped a two-run homer over the centerfield fence with two outs to pull BCC within one at 8-7.
But that was all the closer the Braves would come as Huss dug deep to secure a game-ending strikeout, finish off her complete-game win, and earn postseason advancement for IVCC.
“Usually when someone hits a home run on me I get frustrated. But I knew we were still up by one with one out left and no runners. I just had to push through and try to at least throw strikes — I couldn’t give it away with balls — I couldn’t walk her,” Huss said.
Mickey Fassino paced the IVCC offense with a 3-for-4 outing that included a double, RBI and two runs scored. Paige Hill added a 3-for-4 performance at the plate with a run, and Schmitz finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs.
Black Hawk 5, IVCC 3
The Braves drew first blood in the second game with a three-run top of the first as they opened with four straight hits, including a 2-RBI double to right center from Winthurst.
IVCC countered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first, and knotted things up at 3-3 in the second when starting pitcher Paige Hill helped her own cause at the plate with an RBI single to score Bryn Johnson.
Hill, who led the IVCC bats with a 2-2 showing at the dish, kept the Braves in check after the first inning, but began to cramp up in the fifth and could not return to the rubber.
Reliever Katie Nauman — who hurled a complete-game shutout in the first contest — could not keep the magic alive in her second go-round, and ceded a pair of runs in the sixth off RBI singles from Medinger and leadoff hitter Taylor Ambrozi.
Meanwhile, BCC reliever Haley Pulse was able to keep the Eagles off balance and scoreless after entering in the fourth to pick up the win and keep the Braves chances alive by forcing the deciding third game.
IVCC 1, Black Hawk 0
Nauman allowed just three hits in a strong pitching effort to get the Eagles off on the right foot with the opening-game win.
“The first game Katie Nauman just shut them down. No one was hitting, it seemed like the ball was just dead. I think there may have been only four balls hit to the outfield hard. Everything else was just pop-ups and ground balls,” said Tomaason.
The Eagles landed their lone run in the fourth. Nauman led off the inning with a single and Fassino moved her on to second with a sacrifice bunt.
Two batters later, Schmitz connected on a two-out RBI single to drive in what would prove to be the winning run.
The Eagles managed only five hits off Pulse, who pitched 16-of-19 innings for BCC in the three-game set, led by a 2-for-3 showing for Hill that included a first-inning triple.
NewsTribune Sports Writer Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.