LANSING | As the remnants of a crowd estimated at 200 milled about, and T.F. South center fielder Bri Heintz posed for pictures with a boy and a bouquet at home plate, Rebels catcher Cori Reynolds took it all in.
"It's kind of bittersweet," she said.
Bittersweet? The Times No. 2 Rebels had just beaten Illiana Christian 2-1 to claim the Battle of Lansing for the third straight season.
After the contest scheduled for her freshman season was rained out, Reynolds capped a perfect high school career against the Vikings by driving in Heintz, another four-year varsity player, for what proved to be the decisive run.
"I'm just going to miss what's going on right now," Reynolds said. "A lot of these girls have been playing with us and against us since we started playing softball."
A third four-year varsity player, second baseman Ashtyn Kapovich, scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by Sarah Kessler after leading off the second inning with a triple over the Illiana right fielder's head.
"It was an inside pitch," Kapovich said. "I'm not usually a fan of inside pitches, but I went up there, swung, and it went. I didn't plan on it going as far as it did."
Kapovich had the game's lone run through four innings. Then Heintz, who along with Tiambris Tate had three hits for the Rebels, and Reynolds made the South lead 2-0 with back-to-back, one-out doubles in the fifth.
Rebels hurler Devin Pieper took that lead into the sixth, when Cassie Robertson's second bunt single of the day, followed by Ashley Wiltjer's double to left, cut South's lead in half.
For a moment, Rebels coach Jamie Arundel conceded her mind flashed to South's 3-2 loss Thursday to perennial South Suburban Blue power Oak Forest, when Pieper took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
"She had a heartbreaking loss (Thursday) night," Arundel said. "Two outs, two strikes, some misplays behind her. … It killed me to watch her walk off that field with a loss."
Against Illiana (6-10), Pieper got the last five outs calmly, notching her 11th strikeout of the evening along the way. She improved to 7-4 after her complete-game four-hitter.
In the matchup of sophomore pitchers, the Rebels (12-4) touched Illiana's Brooke Vander Aa for 10 hits, but she stranded nine runners over seven innings.
"It was a good, competitive game," Illiana coach Allie Cable said. "But even from last year, I could tell Devin's got more pop.
"She has movement, and she can definitely hit her spots, but she's got a lot of pop. She's probably one of the top three pitchers we've seen this year."