CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Tinley Park sophomore Maranda Stroz made it pretty clear Saturday afternoon why she is the Titans' designated player.
Stroz hit a third-inning grand slam and added a solo insurance home run in the seventh inning to lead the Titans to a 9-7 victory over Marian Catholic in the championship game of the Class 3A Marian Catholic Regional.
Each of the five runs scored by the Titans -- except from the Stroz grand slam -- came with two outs.
"Our offense hits everything, and we don't ever take a day off of hitting," Titans coach Wendy Podbielniak said. "(Stroz) has been an RBI factor for us all year."
With the win, Tinley Park (24-10) advances to a Wednesday semifinal game in the Providence Sectional. The Spartans (24-12) finish their year in a similar fashion to 2011, when they also bowed out of the playoffs in the regional championship game.
"How can they have these games where they play good all season, and have these types of games at the end of the year," Spartans coach Kerri Evans asked of the defeat. "It's not for lack of effort on the kids' part. They couldn't have wanted to win anymore than they did today. It just didn't go our way."
The Spartans answered the Stroz grand slam with four runs in the bottom of the third inning to close the deficit to 5-4, but the Titans came right back with three runs in the top of the fourth inning to build an 8-4 lead.
Marian Catholic scored a three-run fifth inning off Tinley Park relief pitcher Cosette Tomita, keyed by a two-run home run by senior Jennifer LaBella and an RBI single by pinch hitter Olivia Furlan.
Podbielniak put starting pitcher Sarah Gillespie back on the mound for the final two innings, during which she allowed one Spartans hit and a walk.
Marian Catholic starting pitcher Haley Earl gave up eight runs in four innings of work. Spartans reliever Allison Spence allowed only the Stroz solo home run in three innings. LaBella had three RBIs, while Lauren Boyle added two hits and two RBIs.
Alexandra Nickel had three hits and an RBI for the Spartans, while Becca Stanton saw few strikes thrown to her, as she drew three walks.