Reed helps Rockets solve Eberle in sectional semifinal win

Reed helps Rockets solve Eberle in sectional semifinal win

STANFORD — Maddie Reed wasn't having a day to remember offensively.

Plenty of Unity's softballers could say that during Tuesday's Class 2A Olympia Sectional semifinal, as Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley standout Madi Eberle had piled up 14 strikeouts over 5 2 / 3 innings pitched.

And she was one well-placed toss away from adding Reed to that statistic — for the third time in the bout.

"I knew she just wasn't going to let me walk," Reed said. "I just knew the ball was going to be around the plate, so I had to swing."

The freshman's final cut against Eberle proved Reed was saving her best for last.

Reed slashed a low, inside offering to the wall in right-center field, bringing home the tying and eventual winning runs in a 5-4 Rockets victory over the Falcons.

"She's kind of had some ups and downs these past couple weeks, but we all along knew she can do it," said Unity coach Aimee Davis, who has the Rockets (27-5) in a sectional title tilt for the first time since 2016. "It's just a proud moment for me, and I'm sure it's a better, more proud moment for her dad (Matt Reed) here as the first-base coach."

As they have all year, the Unity ninth-graders on Tuesday had a major say in how their program fared.

Gracie Renfrow notched three hits, the last coming when she beat out a slow grounder to set up Reed's heroics.

And Taylor Henry not only contributed two run-scoring knocks — including the lone home run on a day when the wind was blowing out fiercely to right field — but also hurled a complete game while permitting just three singles and a walk after a rough first three innings.

"Even if they did hit, I knew our team was going to come back," Henry said. "But all the sudden I just started spinning the ball more, and they started hitting little bloopers."

That was a big difference from the two-RBI single lashed by freshman Ashley Hyatt for GCMS (17-8) in the second frame.

Hyatt's success was followed one inning later by a Lauren Leonard groundout and Maci Bielfeldt one-bagger that each produced another tally.

The Falcons' miscues wound up costing them, though, as a pair of infield errors turned into two Rockets runs.

"We did beat ourselves this game," GCMS boss Kara Smith said. "You've got to control the controllables. Pitches are something we can control, and those errors are something we can control. ... But hell of a season. Great job to all those kids."

Getting to Eberle in the circle is not something many foes can say they've achieved throughout her prep career. She boasted more than 200 strikeouts and a sub-2.00 ERA in 2019 entering Tuesday's action.

And although Eberle would've faced Unity's 1-2-3 batters — Henry and Elyce Knudsen (one hit, one run, one RBI) among them — in the bottom of the seventh had she retired Reed, the Rockets would've been starting from scratch.

"We just left that pitch (to Reed) hanging up there," Smith said. "That girl was ready to hit. She came up, and she wasn't going to quit."

Unity did tag Eberle for six runs in a March 26 outing, won 6-4 by the Rockets. But that came across nine innings, and only four of the markers were earned.

"We can't be chasers of the ball that's above our hands, so I thought we did a decent job of figuring that out when we needed to," Davis said, "and it came down to some clutch hits."

As well as a veteran-like pitching performance from Henry, who was chased after 5 2 / 3 frames in that aforementioned event against GCMS.

"It was a big game last time, but this is a really big game for us," Henry said. "I was really pleased that I could actually finish this one."

Henry, Reed and the rest of the Rockets' cast will be required in Saturday's 11 a.m. final versus one of two Illini Prairie Conference rivals — St. Joseph-Ogden (22-9) or host Olympia (23-7).

Unity defeated both during the regular season, so its athletes say they have no preference for who comes out ahead in today's other semifinal.

The Rockets did make one thing clear to their next foe: They aren't to be counted out.

"We just want to win," Henry said. "That's all we care for."

"If we just practice our game," Reed added, "... we can do what we want to do."