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Mendota’s Taylor Kelly (right) congratulates teammate Mary Defore after Defore scored a run in the fourth inning that gave Mendota a 7-4 lead, which it held on to pull out the victory in Monday’s 9-10 Year Old District 20 Tournament championship series in Mendota. The teams will play again at 6 tonight in a winner-take-all District 20 Tournament title game. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Peru’s Adriaan Haage (right) catches a pop-up as first baseman Grace Schmollinger looks on in Monday’s 9-10 Year-Old District 20 Tournament in Mendota. Mendota downed Peru 7-4 to force a winner-take-all game at 6 tonight. The winner advances to Section 1 Tournament, which starts Friday in Oglesby. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
MENDOTA — With one loss in the double-elimination 9-10-Year-Old Softball District 20 Tournament, the Mendota All-Stars knew the season was over if it happened again.
The base runners were aggressive and starting pitcher Mary Defore struck out eight batters in a complete-game victory as Mendota defeated Peru 7-4 Monday to push the championship series to a winner-take-all game tonight.
“We wanted to win this game a lot,” said Defore, who allowed three hits, four runs — one earned — and walked none. “We wanted to make it to (Tuesday).”
Since Peru was the team who gave Mendota its loss earlier in the tourney, Mendota gained confidence with Monday’s win and believes it has what it takes to become the district champ when the squads face off again at 6 tonight at Strouss Park in Mendota.
“We are going to win,” Defore said.
Peru started with the upperhand as Makenzie DeFosse, Payge Pyszka and Kelli Boyer — the first three hitters in the lineup — crossed home plate.
Defosse took first on a Mendota error and was brought around by Pyszka and Boyer reaching on a fielder’s choice. One out later, catcher Paige Kirkman hit a two-run single to give Peru a 3-0 lead.
“Our focus was to come in and play defense and offense as best as we can,” Peru coach Jen Pyszka said. “I told the girls to play like they know how to play, come out and have fun, and let’s win. We didn’t change our strategy at all (from the first game they played against Mendota).”
Mendota was quick to reply.
The first four Mendota batters — Mackenzie Heinzroth, Natalie Bodmer, Defore and Jaelyn Fitzgerald — scored as an out wasn’t recorded until the fifth batter.
Heinzroth was walked and advanced home on passed balls and was followed by Bodmer reaching first base on an error and was brought home by Fitzgerald’s RBI single.
With Bodmer on third and Fitzgerald on second, second baseman Kaitlyn Kobelisik walked to load the bases. Taylor Kelly recorded an RBI on a walk and Zoe Finley tallied an RBI as she hit a dribbler to score Fitzgerald to give Mendota the 4-3 lead after one inning.
“We thought that going in one of our strengths was we didn’t have a weak batter in the lineup,” said Mendota coach John McDowell, who was one of three assistant coaches along with Toby Fitzgerald and Bucky Kelly filling in for coach JoAnna Engles, who was attending classes. “It means a lot. They wanted it really bad. I’m sure both teams are going to want it really bad tomorrow. It should be a great game.”
Peru didn’t back down either.
In the top of the second, Peru tied the game 4-4 after Payge Pyszka hit a two-out RBI single.
“I told our girls I have all the confidence in the world in them and they need to bring the confidence out in themselves,” Pyszka said. “They really tried to battle back there. They never gave up and I’m always proud of that.”
But, in a game that was the definition of back-and-forth in the early frames, Defore — who scored three runs in the game — scored in the bottom of the second off of a two-out double from Jaelyn Fitzgerald to pull Mendota ahead 5-4.
Mendota would not surrender the lead again as Kelly and Defore scored insurance runs in the third and fourth inning and Defore struck out two batters in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings to help Mendota avenge Peru with a 7-4 victory.
“We owe a lot to our pitcher and a whole lot to the girls knowing where to go with the ball to back her up,” McDowell said. “I’m proud of them.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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