PAXTON — Saturday mornings in late May are usually reserved for a St. Joseph-Ogden softball appearance in a Class 2A sectional championship game. But the Spartans won’t get to this year.
A 1-0 loss to Tremont on Thursday during a 2A sectional semifinal game in Paxton means SJ-O — which started seven freshmen or sophomores — won’t play for a sectional title Saturday for the first time this decade.
“I thought we competed well,” SJ-O coach Randy Wolken said. “We had people on base. We just couldn’t get the big hit.”
Or the big base-running play. Tremont (30-4) took advantage of aggressive base running to produce the game’s lone run.
“We knew that (SJ-O’s) game was moving runners and forcing the defense to commit to something,” Tremont coach Skip Penning said. “I take my hat off to (SJ-O). They’re a scrappy team. They gave us everything we thought they’d give.”
The Turks scored after Wesley Woodard walked to lead off the second inning — the only free pass SJ-O pitcher Tori Witruck allowed in an otherwise-sterling start — and Woodard went from first to third base after a sacrifice bunt. The entire SJ-O infield charged on Kennedy Dill’s sacrifice, which SJ-O catcher Hannah Monk fielded and threw to second baseman Molly McElwee covering first base, but no one was covering third. Two batters later, Abbie Stoller slapped an opposite-field single to left to plate Woodard.
“The bunt was so soft, (and) we had everyone converging,” Wolken said. “One of the girls was supposed to go back to third, and it was so long to get back, (Woodard) took advantage of it.”
SJ-O (26-8) had its best scoring chance in the fifth when Logan Frerichs (single) and Monk (error) reached base, and a sacrifice bunt by Katelyn Burch moved both runners up 60 feet. A failed suicide- squeeze bunt, however, caught Frerichs in a rundown before she was tagged out at home, and Tremont pitcher Jaycee Craver ended the threat with one of her eight strikeouts.
“We weren’t going to get many good solid hits, but we had to try to see if we could squeeze something in,” Wolken said. “It didn’t materialize. That was hard.”
Six area teams will play for hardware Saturday. A look:
CLASS 3A BASEBALL
Central vs. Centennial, 2 p.m. at Mahomet
CLASS 2A BASEBALL
Monticello vs. Olympia or Paris, 11 a.m. at Unity
CLASS 1A BASEBALL
Argenta-Oreana vs. St. Teresa, 1 p.m. at Danville Stadium
CLASS 3A SOFTBALL
Mahomet-Seymour vs. Charleston, 11 a.m. at Mahomet
CLASS 2A SOFTBALL
Monticello vs. Tremont, 10 a.m. at Paxton