EAST PEORIA | In a blink of an eye, the Beecher softball team’s aspirations of a Class 2A Illinois state title disappeared.
The Ladycats couldn’t take advantage of some strong offensive opportunities, as a fifth-inning Teutopolis comeback stood as the difference in a 6-5 loss in the state semifinals at EastSide Centre on Friday.
“We had a lot of runners left on base, but give credit to Teutopolis,” Beecher coach Kevin Hayhurst said. “Their pitcher was really bending and bending and she just kept making some plays herself and her defense behind her made some incredible plays to keep us from scoring.”
Beecher (33-8) jumped on the Teutopolis defense early in the game, taking advantage of a Sydney Zupan leadoff double and a pair of errors by the Wooden Shoes to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
Teutopolis responded with a Julie Wente RBI triple in the bottom half of the inning to cut the deficit to one.
The top of the third was when it seemed like the highly-potent Beecher offense was going to start to run away. Freshman first baseman Taylor Johnson connected for her 17th home run of the season to leadoff the inning, sending a deep shot all the way past the temporary bleachers set up in left field.
Singles by Zupan and Savannah Lowe helped set up a two-run pinch-hit single by freshman Salem Garza to give Beecher a 5-1 lead.
Teutopolis (28-3) responded in the bottom half of the inning with a walk and pair of singles to cut the lead to 5-3 with two runners on and two outs for third baseman Allison Apke.
Beecher starting pitcher Sarah Crews got up 0-2 on Apke, but her fifth pitch was quickly sent over the left-centerfield fence to give Teutopolis a 6-5 lead, one it would never relinquish.
“They threw me two outside pitches and they called them strikes,” Apke said. “They told us before the game that she had trouble throwing inside, so I scooted up and I battled until I found a pitch that I could hit, and I just took it over the fence.”
Said Hayhurst: “We were trying to go hard-in on her, but she left it out over the plate and that’s why that girl put that one over the fence. Give the hitter credit, she missed her spot, but the hitter still hit it.”
Beecher had good scoring chances, getting multiple runners on base in each the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, but could never get the runners in against sophomore pitcher Kadi Borries and a defense that improved mightily as the game progressed.
“I was so happy for my defense,” Borries said of a group that committed four errors early in the game. “They might have made errors on hard hit balls, but they did their best to stay in front of it. We did really good at keeping our heads up.”
Beecher will face Monticello in the Class 2A third-place game on Saturday. The game is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Josh Herman can be reached at (309) 686-3214 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshHermanPJS