URBANA — The next-best thing to winning is being in position to win.
Urbana’s softball team didn’t get a victory Wednesday but came away with the consolation prize in a Class 3A regional semifinal game.
The Tigers dropped a 12-10 decision to Decatur MacArthur, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and leaving the bases loaded against an opponent they had outscored twice in the regular season.
In all three games of the series, the winning and losing teams reached double figures in runs.
“We don’t have a dominant pitcher, so we have to beat teams 14-12 and not 2-1,” Urbana coach Brad Lovett said.
Senior catcher Lexi White did her part to keep the Tigers close early. Twice in the first two innings she threw out would-be base stealers. A converted third baseman who hopes to make the Parkland College team next spring as a walk-on, White gunned out four attempted base stealers in Urbana’s final regular season game.
“That’s my intent, whoever tries to steal on me,” White said.
Lovett had no qualms about putting White behind the plate this season.
“She has caught in the past, and she wants to catch,” he said.
The Tigers (11-18) found themselves in a familiar position against the Generals: needing to play catch-up.
“That’s been our problem,” Lovett said. “We get down early and have to whittle our way back.”
White was in the on-deck circle when the game ended. She has seen the Tigers succeed in comeback attempts before and wasn’t willing to concede anything in the seventh inning.
“I encouraged my teammates to keep their heads up,” White said.
Three Tigers accounted for six of the team’s seven hits. Krista Broom, Ellen Beverly and Shelly Brown each had two hits. Leadoff batter Chelsea Skinner scored two runs, as did Beverly and White.
In Lovett’s six years as head coach, the program’s greatest strides have been on offense.
“My first year we had a team batting average of .215 and two hitters over .300,” he said.
This year the team finished with six .300 hitters and a cumulative average above .320.
“We’ve kept our youth program going,” Lovett said. “All the coaches at all the levels are trying to teach the same thing.”
Urbana will field three 16-and-under teams this summer and two 12-and-under squads.
Beverly, whose 44 RBI are believed to be a school single-season record, White and shortstop Brown are the senior starters who will need to be replaced.
The Tigers’ final game represented a first. In the other 10 games where the team scored in double figures, it won the game.
MacArthur (5-19) will return to Urbana’s field Saturday to play Centennial (16-19) in the 11 a.m. regional championship game. The Generals are seeking their second regional crown in four years. Centennial’s last regional softball title was in 2002.
Salt Fork 7, East Central 3. Winning pitcher Cole Taylor struck out nine in seven innings for the Storm in a Class 1A sectional semifinal at LeRoy.
Noah Darr went 2 for 4 and scored three runs for Salt Fork, which got two hits and an RBI from Taylor. Cole Sanford added two hits, including a double, and two RBI in the victory.
Chance Lemmon had two hits and an RBI for the Panthers.
Iroquois West 8, Decatur Lutheran 1. Winning pitcher Henry Gerritson struck out 15 in seven innings for the Raiders in their Class 1A sectional semifinal at LeRoy.
Keaton Zirkle had three hits and three RBI for Iroquois West, which plays Salt Fork at 11 a.m. Saturday for the title. Clark Fink doubled and scored twice in the victory, and teammate Trenton Miller had two doubles, three runs and two RBI.
Olympia 5, Oakwood 0. Jake England took the loss for the Comets (18-7) in their Class 2A sectional semifinal at Monticello.