EAST PEORIA — Monticello softball assistant Christine Dickerson had a birthday Friday. The Sages sang to her and got her an ice cream cake.
They made her wait an extra day for her present, however.
All she wanted was a victory at the state tournament.
“I’m perfectly OK with the wait,” Dickerson said Saturday as Monticello’s players celebrated a win in the Class 2A third-place game, 6-1, against Beecher.
Dickerson pulled double duty at state. She not only served as the first-base coach but she also kept the team’s scorebook.
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The Sages (31-5) completed a powerful performance for the season with two more home runs.
Allie Hislope raised her single-season school-record mark to 14, and teammate Megan Magsamen slugged her fifth.
For the year, Monticello players clubbed 39 home runs, which ties the school for 15th on the all-time IHSA single-season list.
Among area teams, it’s the second-best one-year output. St. Joseph-Ogden’s 2011 team blasted 48 home runs.
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Pitcher Chrissy Gadbury and catcher Hislope had a brief conversation in the pitching circle prior to the start of the seventh inning.
“We’ve played together since we were 8,” Gadbury said. “She came out and said it’s one last time to pitch and catch. It was our last inning together. It’s sad.”
Hislope called it “a bittersweet moment,” adding, “it has been awesome playing with her, but we won’t ever play together again.”
The same was true for all the other squad members as a unit. It was a theme that Ashley Gulliford said the players took to heart.
“This was a new day, and we needed to play like we’d never play again,” she said.
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Monticello coach Courtney Hoffman said she will retain much more than ending the season with a win. The players, she said, made it an enjoyable year to coach.
“I’ll remember how fun they are, how they genuinely like and respect one another,” Hoffman said. “They want each other to do well.”
She said there wasn’t much need to provide a motivational speech prior to the game against Beecher (33-9).
“Most teams don’t get to end like this, knowing in advance it’s your last game,” she said. “This is state. There wasn’t much else to say.”
Hislope said the team knew what was at stake.
“We had the mind-set of giving it all we had and coming out of here the best we can,” she said.
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Monticello’s softball team is the first from the school in a bracketed sport — male or female — to earn a state trophy.
“It feels amazing to come to state,” Gulliford said, “and to place is incredible.”
Claire Huisinga said that for her and the Sages’ other four seniors, there couldn’t have been a better ending.
“It’s great to end on a win,” Huisinga said, “especially for the seniors. This is so awesome.”
Other seniors — all of whom played before the first inning was over — are Mallory Becker, Emily Chitwood, Gadbury and Hislope.
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The Sages didn’t have much time to spare in completing the third-place contest. Rain started falling 32 minutes before the game ended, and the postgame awards ceremony was conducted in a steady downfall.
Within five minutes of media gaining access to the team for interviews, the lightning detector at Eastside Centre sounded and everyone was asked to vacate the premises. Interviews were completed in the parking lot.
“I’m glad we got the whole game in,” Hislope said. “No one wants to play a five-inning game.”