LOCKPORT | Homewood-Flossmoor pitcher Sarah Burke played with fire for five innings at Thursday's Class 4A Lockport Sectional semifinal against Andrew.
In the sixth inning, she finally got burned.
Burke allowed 12 baserunners through the first five innings, but was able to escape every inning without significant damage, as the Vikings led 3-2.
But Andrew finally broke through in the sixth, plating four runs -- two unearned -- and then held on for a 6-3 victory.
The Vikings' disastrous sixth inning was compounded by two errors and a Thunderbolts' suicide squeeze that netted no outs.
"I knew that was probably going to catch up eventually," H-F coach Katie Rice-Hoger said of all the Andrew baserunners. "It was just going to depend on how bad the girls wanted it all the way to the end. We just kind of lost it a little bit in that inning and got a little out of hand."
H-F was riding high early in the ballgame after staking itself to a 3-0 lead.
The Vikings broke through in the second when Burke drove in a run on a fielder's choice, and Melanie Hamilton drew a two-out bases-loaded walk.
Kaitlyn Shereyk doubled and scored on a Marissa Werner single in the third inning to extend the lead.
But following the Werner single Andrew pitcher Brooke Hofer retired 11 of the last 12 Vikings to close out the game. For the game, she struck out six H-F hitters.
"I think the girls started to press a little too much," Rice-Hoger said. "They were going to the plate trying too hard out there instead of just getting up there and doing what they knew how to do."
The sectional semifinal loss ends a season that saw the Vikings (19-17) turn a lot of heads in the softball world. Rice-Hoger, in her first year at the helm, said she expects to see her team build off this season's success.
"It's absolutely a good year to build on," the Vikings' coach said. "We have eight girls returning next year and another great group coming up."