CRETE | Melanie Lambert felt the rush of momentum.
Like a miniature golf shot that found its way past the windmill, her two-run, two-out single in the third inning hopped through the outstretched arms of the ranging second baseman.
The hit gave Crete-Monee a one-run lead in the championship game of the Class 3A Crete-Monee Regional, but the momentum didn’t carry through as visiting Kankakee had two huge hits later in the game and beat the top-seeded Warriors 6-2 Saturday for the first softball regional title in school history.
One of seven juniors on a team that loses just one active senior -- Julie Finley, who scored on Lambert’s hit -- Lambert will remember the feeling when she comes back next year.
“It was a nice pitch, right down the middle, and I knew I wouldn’t see a better one to hit,” Lambert said. “It felt good. Their pitcher gets down and gets rattled when we hit. If we had stayed with it we could have rocked her.”
Lambert rounded first after her single and was tagged out going to second with a teammate advancing to third base. Crete (18-14) had one more threat the rest of the game when two runners reached with one out in the fifth, but consecutive strikeouts to end the inning killed the potential rally.
Kankakee sophomore Sydney Mayo, who had a school-record 78 RBIs this season, had a pair of two-run hits. The first put the Kays (25-12) up
3-2 in the fifth, and the next made it 5-2 in the seventh.
“We had some things to prove,” Kankakee coach Deb Johnston said.
“(Mayo) did what she’s done all year. She just crushes the ball.”
The strategy was for Crete starter Sarah Rizzo to keep the ball outside against Mayo, but when Rizzo missed she paid. Rizzo allowed three earned runs and struck out seven.
The seventh inning included two of Crete’s three fielding errors.
“You’ve got to play tough defense and not just assume you’re always going to make the catch,” Warriors coach Sue Giannantonio said. “You can’t give up more than three outs an inning when you’re playing a tough team.”
Kankakee won its final two games against Crete after losing in the first two meetings. The Warriors overcame an 8-0 deficit in the first game of the regular season to win 12-11, but timely hitting was lacking Saturday, and almost every batted ball that made it out of the infield was gobbled up by Kankakee’s center fielder, who had four putouts. Kankakee’s right fielder made three assists as well.
“We were a young team with a lot to build on,” Giannantonio said. “In the huddle (after the game) I told them they have a lot to look forward to.”