CRYSTAL LAKE – For as many scoring opportunities No. 5 Jacobs had early in its regional quarterfinal game against No. 4 Crystal Lake South, the Golden Eagles believed it was only a matter of when, not if, they would break through.
Jacobs stranded four on base and two base runners were thrown out trying to take an extra base through the first five innings Monday in a scoreless ballgame. But the Golden Eagles kept the pressure on the Gators, and it finally paid off in the sixth.
Sarah Murray doubled to lead off the inning, advancing to third on a wild pitch, and three batters later, Courtney Cotugno came through in the clutch. Her two-out single scored the game’s first run, and Jacobs tacked on four more in seventh for a 5-0 win in the Class 4A Jacobs Regional. The Golden Eagles advance to today’s regional semfinals and will play host to No. 1-seed Cary-Grove at 4:30 p.m.
“We were kind of upset that we got the No. 5 seed and we had to play a play-in game,” Murray said. “But we wanted to show them we shouldn’t have gotten that and we’re ready to play.”
Cotugno’s go-ahead RBI single in the sixth was redemption after she was thrown out at second base in her previous at-bat trying to stretch a single into a double. Jacobs disagreed with the call, which would have given the Golden Eagles a runner on second with nobody out in the fourth. Cotugno didn’t let that affect her.
“It felt really good,” a smiling Cotugno said of her game-winning RBI. “I was ready more than ever then. I wanted to get [it] back.”
Jacobs (17-14) wasn’t satisfied with a one-run lead entering the seventh. A one-out error by the Gators (14-11), one of three they committed in the loss, led to trouble. The Golden Eagles followed with four consecutive hits, including a three-run homer by Murray off South starting pitcher Hailee Massie, who struck out nine batters.
“They just didn’t want to give up,” Jacobs coach Jeremy Bauer said. “They didn’t want to end their season on the road. When the seedings came out, it was actually pretty controversial as to how it all played out, but when it came right down to it, we knew we were going to have to play a team like this who is capable of winning.”
Jacobs pitcher Kelsey Peters (16-11) didn’t allow the Gators many chances to take control of the game. She surrendered only five hits and struck out eight batters while walking one to pick up the win.
“She was amazing,” Bauer said. “She was hitting her spots and keeping people off-balance and really letting her defense make a couple plays.”
South threatened in the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out and eventually loaded the bases thanks to two singles and a walk in the inning. However, the Gators couldn’t take advantage of their last chance to prolong the game or pull out the win. Although their season is over, the Gators have built a strong foundation, with eight players from Monday’s starting lineup return next year.
“We kind of fizzled out there at the end,” South coach Scott Busam said. “A little too passive at the plate. Our defense has been what has kept us in games. Our pitching and our defense, today those two things, at the end of the game at least, were kind of to our detriment.”