GENOA – Whenever the Crystal Lake South softball team needed a big hit this season, someone would come through.
But the big hit never came Wednesday in a 5-4, eight-inning loss to Sycamore in a Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional semifinal.
"We tried everything – we squeezed, we bunted, we hit a couple doubles," Crystal Lake South coach Scott Busam said. "We hit the ball around, we just didn't come up with the one big clutch hit we usually get. The two-out double with the bases loaded. Every time they were in that situation they did a great job and managed to get themselves out of it. What we've done all year, they managed to stop us from doing all day. It cost us in the end."
The Gators (32-3) jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh. But Sycamore (29-6-1) got to starter Christina Toniolo, scoring on a single and then a fielder's choice to knot things up.
In the top of the eighth, Evelyn Smith and Brooke Kuffel singled to put two on with one out off Sycamore starter Faith Reynolds, but reliever Milani Sablan came in and struck out Alexis Pupillo and Emily Sulikowski to escape the jam. They were the 10th and 11th runners the Gators left stranded in the game.
In the bottom of the inning, Mia Richards hit a one-out single, Emma Torson pinch ran and with two outs, Haley Trela hit a triple off the fence in right to win it for Sycamore.
South capitalized early on a pair of Sycamore errors in the first. Kuffel and Pupillo started the game by reaching on errors, then Sulikowski singled home a run and Pupillo scored on a wild pitch. In the second, Sulikowski singled home Smith with one out and the bases loaded, but Reynolds escaped the jam again.
The Gators scored once in the sixth, but again left the bases loaded.
"The errors on the defense and the stranded baserunners – it's not something we've done a lot," Busam said. "You really have to credit their pitchers. They did a lot of work to get out of some really, really, tough jams. We have a great offense, everybody knows that. It's been our strength all season. They did a great job of locking it down."
Kuffel, Sulikowski, Smith and Kyra Swartz had two each hits for the Gators. Toniolo gave up three earned runs and struck out six while walking three, one intentional.
And while the season ended Wednesday Busam said there was a lot to be happy about this year – the best record in school history, the first conference championship since 1986, and the first regional title since 2008.
"We're pleased," Busam said. "This was not the goal. The goal was Peoria. But we're proud of what they accomplished, the best team in school history. Unfortunately they couldn't advance through the postseason the way we wanted to."