GRANT PARK | Calm and collected, Illinois Lutheran coach Jeff Uhlenbrauck stood in front of his team just before the bottom of the seventh inning of Saturday’s regional final.
With his team leading 9-7 on the cusp of its first regional title in program history, he said, “This is fun. We need three outs.”
Those three outs never came, and the fun was short-lived as host and top seed Grant Park rallied with two outs and beat Illinois Lutheran 10-9 to win the Class 1A Grant Park Regional.
“That was the best we played all season; so it wasn't a solid finish,” senior pitcher Tori Schrementi said. “We lost fighting.”
After the count ran to 2-2 and Jessica Zemantis of Grant Park fouled off four additional pitches with two out, she tripled home two runs to tie the game at nine, and she scored on a wild pitch by Schrementi to end the game.
Schrementi was caught off second base in the first after an RBI double, but she was 2-for-2 with two doubles and three RBIs, matching teammate Amanda Buzan’s three, and she scored two runs with a walk and hit-by-pitch.
A senior headed to Roosevelt University on a volleyball scholarship, Schrementi pitched the final two innings and allowed five runs on six hits with five wild pitches.
“I expected we would come out and win,” Schrementi said. “I wasn’t expecting that inning.”
Uhlenbrauck defended the decision to lift Madisen Litton, who had pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth but was wearing down and struggling, especially against the top four in Grant Park’s lineup, who ultimately combined for 11 hits and seven runs in the game.
Litton moved to third base in the sixth, but a sharp hit drilled her in the leg, forcing her to the outfield and moving a weaker thrower to third.
“Their top four had seen Madisen three times, and I have a lot of faith and confidence in Tori as a pitcher,” Uhlenbrauck said. “I thought it was the right time.”
A few close calls did not go Illinois Lutheran’s way, including a potential out at first that would have ended the game. Uhlenbrauck, nonetheless, kept his team stoked with positive comments.
“They have not been in a lot of opportunities like this, and they played pretty loose,” Uhlenbrauck said.
Illinois Lutheran (11-16) led 2-0 after one inning and 6-2 after two.
Buzan’s fourth-inning single put them up 8-5, and Jarelle Heyn added an RBI single the next inning.
Grant Park never led until the final play.
The defending regional champion Dragons (13-11) beat the Chargers for a third time this season and won their third regional in four years.
“I told the girls at the beginning that Illinois Lutheran would come in here with nothing to lose,” Grant Park coach Dave Rademacher said.
“I came in worrying about this game. I told (Tori Schrementi) I’m glad she’s graduating. She’s been tough to play all these years.”