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La Salle catcher Tiana Kilanowski (right) gets ready to tag out Peru’s Katie Schallhorn at the plate during Sunday’s Junior League softball championship in Spring Valley. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Rich Williams made a promise to his La Salle Junior League softball players.
If they win a section title, he’ll get a new hairdo.
“I kind of challenged the girls,” Williams said. “I told them if they win the (section) tournament, I’ll dye my hair purple and they can shave my head — I’ll give them a Mohawk. They’ve been kind of rallying around that.”
La Salle took a step toward Williams’ makeover by rallying to beat Peru 12-8 in eight innings to win the District 20 championship Sunday in Spring Valley.
“I figured this tournament was ours to give away because we played well against these two teams (Peru and Oglesby) all season,” Williams said. “I was hoping we would be able to come out and perform the way we did. They kind of scared me a little bit at the end, but hey, what’s a championship without an extra-inning game?”
La Salle had to rally after Peru struck for five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 6-2 lead.
La Salle responded immediately.
In the top of the sixth, La Salle sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs — with two coming on a double by Tiana Kilanowski — to take an 8-6 lead.
“I just told them they couldn’t give up,” Williams said. “They know they can hit. They haven’t been doing it. I said, ‘Now’s the time,’ and they came back.”
After Peru came back with a run in the sixth and a run in the seventh to force extra softball, La Salle had another big inning.
Rachel Haas started things for Peru in the eighth inning with a single and a stolen base.
Following a groundout, Leilani Tautolo ripped an RBI triple to give La Salle the lead for good.
La Salle added three more runs — including two on a single by Alexia Forrer — to provide insurance.
Tautolo then tossed a scoreless bottom of the eighth to wrap up the victory for La Salle, which advances to the Section 1 Tournament at St. Mary’s Park in La Salle.
The section tournament begins Friday but La Salle’s first game is at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“I expect tough games,” Williams said. “I watched the Little League sectional. I’m not sure who is in (our section tournament) from the other districts, but if it’s anything like Freeport and Brookfield, we’ll have a tough time. We’ll keep practicing and see how it comes out. Hopefully, I gave them enough motivation that they’ll want to do it.”
Peru coach David Hancock said his squad played much better Sunday than in Friday’s 10-0 loss to La Salle.
“We hit the ball. We looked good,” said Hancock, whose team had a runner thrown out at the plate in the sixth inning. “We had our chances, there’s no question.”
Hancock said he hopes many of the girls come out again next season.
“This group, we only have two 14-year-olds. This group will be back again next year,” he said. “They know what it takes now. They’ve seen what it’s like. We’ll be fine.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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