HOOPESTON — A year ago, a junior-laden Paxton-Buckley-Loda softball team fell by a single run to Bismarck-Henning in a regional championship game.
The Panthers never forgot the feeling, with coach Lindsey Alred saying prior to the teams' rematch in the Class 2A Hoopeston Regional championship, "I don't have to bring it up, they were all here."
That same PBL core, now led by six senior starters, exacted its revenge in a big way Saturday. The second-seeded Panthers pounded out 11 hits and took advantage of five Blue Devils errors to cruise to a 13-6 victory against the top seed, earning a berth in the Watseka Sectional semifinals opposite of Seneca on Wednesday.
"It was motivation, to get them back," said PBL shortstop Brooke Allen, who homered, scored twice and drove in two.
Trailing 1-0 after two innings, PBL took the lead for good with a four-run third. It was highlighted by a two-run single from junior Paige Schwartz, who broke out of a recent slump with two hits and four RBI, including a critical two-run double that stretched PBL's lead to 6-2 in the fifth inning.
"She really stepped up," Allen said.
"Paige had struggled these last few weeks. For her to come up in the bottom half of that order and get those huge hits, that's big for us.
"That's what we've been talking about. Our top half has been getting the job done and scoring runs and putting the ball in play. But for the bottom half to come through like they did, that means a lot," added Alred, whose team got six of its 11 RBI from its Nos. 6-9 hitters.
In the sixth inning, PBL (24-8) stretched its lead to 13-2 by tacking on seven runs, six of them unearned, as B-H committed three errors in the frame, including a dropped fly ball that got the rally started. That was plenty to make a winner out of Liz Satterlee, who picked up her 20th win in a complete-game effort.
The lefty wasn't at her best statistically, but Satterlee buoyed the sweetest win of her career by not walking a batter in what could've become a slugfest if she had. She allowed six earned runs on nine hits, striking out eight.
B-H's Emily Hawkins took the loss, allowing 11 runs, four earned, in three-plus innings. She only allowed four hits but was hurt by five walks and the B-H errors in the sixth inning, as she had returned to the mound after being pulled in the third.
"It was more meaningful this year than all the others because we're seniors," said PBL second baseman JJ Valentine, who had three hits and an RBI.