BRAIDWOOD | Whatever Kevin Hayhurst's words of wisdom were, they didn't register with Sarah Crews.
It was the top of the first inning, Beecher was the home team on the scoreboard but playing Reed-Custer's diamond. The Comets loaded the bases with no outs and had more than half of a Class 2A sectional title game crowd numbering more than 300 roaring.
So Hayhurst, Beecher's coach, gathered his infielders in Crews' pitching circle and said …
"I really don't know," Crews said. "I think he was kind of like, 'Do what you do.'"
So Crews did what she does. With the infield pulled in, She struck out the next two batters on six pitches, total. One more strike resulted in a ground out to second, and Beecher was out of the jam.
The Ladycats scored three times in their half of the first and never trailed en route to a 9-2 win for their first sectional title since 2008. Beecher (31-7) will meet Westmont (20-8), a 2-0 winner over the hosts of the Immaculate Conception Sectional, at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Rosemont Stadium Super-sectional.
Beecher will be trying to reach the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in Hayhurst's 12 seasons. The Ladycats were state champs in 2004 and 2007.
"There were some momentum switches, big-time, in this game," Hayhurst said. "They get the first three runners on to start the game, we get out of it. We score three in the first, they get the first three runners on again in the second."
And again, this time without the benefit of a mound visit, Crews escaped unscathed, two popups sandwiching one of her 10 strikeouts on the day.
Crews (21-3) won the marquee battle against Comets freshman Kenna Wilkey (16-12), who entered the contest with 373 strikeouts on the season and was coming off an 11-inning no-hitter in the Comets' sectional semifinal win. Crews allowed six hits and three walks, giving up only two unearned runs in the fifth, while Wilkey was under near-constant siege despite striking out eight, retiring the side in order only once and giving up 12 hits.
None was bigger than a two-run double by freshman left-fielder Carson Solis in the fifth. The Comets crept within a run, a 3-2, on Georgia Votta's two-run single in the top half of the inning, and though Vanna Lowe got one of those back with a bases-loaded ground out to plate Emily Landis, Solis quickly got in a hole, 1-2, to Wilkey.
Still stinging for being pinch-hit for in her previous at-bat – she re-entered – Solis fouled off eight pitches, all at 1-2, before lining a two-out shot into the gap in left-center.
"She didn't look real good (in her first at-bat)," Hayhurst said of the decision to bat for Solis in the fourth. "We decided to try someone who had a chance to get a bunt down."
Upset with her strikeout to end the first inning against Wilkey, Solis said, "Then I got taken out, and I was even more mad."
She made good.
"I don't think I've ever had an at-bat that long," she said. "Eight (foul balls)? Gosh."
Consider the effort of Beecher's grit throughout the game. Sydney Zupan led the way with three hits – including two doubles – and three RBIs, but Beecher also got two hits each from Crews and Maddie Bainbridge, while Landis added an RBI double.
"Family dinner night really helped last night," Crews said. "We all went to the Olive Garden."
So, is a reservation in the offing for Sunday night?
"Well," she said, laughing, "we're definitely going to have to talk about it."