Bumpy fourth inning hampers Bombers

Bumpy fourth inning hampers Bombers

EAST PEORIA — Walk. Bunt. Bunt. Bunt. Bunt. Infield single. Home run.

That seven-batter sequence by Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg in Friday's Class 1A state softball semifinals established a mountain too big for Argenta-Oreana to climb in its first appearance at EastSide Centre.

The Hatchets used a five-run fourth inning to back a stout pitching performance from junior and Illini commit Calla Roney, leaving the Bombers with a 5-3 loss and a shot at third place Saturday against Spoon River Valley.

"If I was in his shoes, I would've done the same thing," A-O coach Angie Ridgeway said of W/S-S leader Craig Moffett's strategy at the dish. "If we couldn't have fielded it clean and get the out that we needed, I would've done it the whole game."

The Hatchets (27-4) didn't play small ball in the fourth frame alone, but that was when it proved most effective against the Bombers (19-9).

"Their corners were better than the scouting report we got, actually," Moffett said of A-O senior first baseman Maggie Millington and senior third baseman Tatiana Garcia. "We just tried to put a little heat on them and make them make the plays."

During four consecutive at-bats, the Bombers couldn't come through. After A-O senior Lydia Hays walked sophomore Mackinzee Reynolds to lead off the fourth, each of the Hatchets' next four swatters squared around on Hays to bring in two tallies. After Roney singled home another run and was subsequently caught stealing, junior Mackenzi Tabbert took freshman reliever Cassi Newbanks deep to straightaway center for a two-run blast.

"I think we were ready. We just weren't expecting it as much," Garcia said of W/S-S' approach. "They came out really good on their bunts, and we just weren't prepared that much for that, those little bunts."

That flurry of Hatchet offense overtook a first-inning RBI groundout from Garcia. Roney responded to A-O's early advantage by, at one point, retiring 10 Bombers in a row. She finished with 10 strikeouts in a complete-game effort. But A-O rallied with two outs in the sixth, when Garcia smashed a run-scoring double and freshman pinch runner Keely Meador crossed home on an error.

"They gave it everything they've got," Ridgeway said. "They leave their hearts on their sleeves. I've got girls who are already crying, and I'm like, 'We've still got another game.'"

That the Bombers do. And regardless of how Saturday's 1 p.m. tilt with Spoon River Valley (18-3) plays out, A-O will leave with its fourth piece of postseason hardware — this year and in program history.

"(We're) just going to go out there and have fun," Garcia said, "and hopefully we come home with our last game with a dub."

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