EAST PEORIA – Huntley's Sofia Tenuta has been in just about every situation imaginable throughout her four-year varsity career, making the outcome of her last at-bat in the Class 4A state championship game against St. Charles East pretty much a sure thing.
"I just knew I needed to get a hit, whether that meant getting on base, not getting on and just scoring a run," said Tenuta, who had two singles in her first three at-bats. "Just bat on the ball at that point is all that was on my mind."
In her last high school at-bat, Tenuta got the job done.
On the second pitch from sophomore pitcher Katie Arrambide, Tenuta swung and lifted a high fly ball to Krista Sbarra in right field. Huntley's Taylor Zielinski, who led off the top of the eighth with a hit to left field and moved to second on an error and third on a bunt, raced home for the go-ahead run.
Sophomore sensation Briana Bower retired the last three St. Charles East batters in order in the bottom half, striking out Chelsea Campagna on three pitches for the final out to lead Huntley to a 1-0 victory at EastSide Centre and the first state championship in school history.
Huntley (35-7) had not won a state title in any sport – boys or girls – before Saturday. The Raiders also became the first softball team from the Fox Valley Conference to win a state title, and only the second team from the McHenry County area, joining Marengo (Class 3A titles in 2011 and 2017).
"Words cannot describe this experience," Huntley 16-year coach Mark Petryniec said. "We threw everything at them. On, over and in has been our philosophy, and it worked out to win a state championship today."
Tenuta, who was a mainstay at catcher for the Raiders, was forced to stop catching about halfway through the season as she battled a right rotator cuff injury and could no longer push through the pain.
"That kid has worked hard," Petryniec said. "She held off fixing it so we can accomplish this. No doubt with Sof up."
The Raiders stranded five runners through the first seven innings against Arrambide, who finished with nine strikeouts, one walk and six hits allowed. Huntley had the leadoff runner on base in the sixth and seventh, but came up empty both times.
Zielinski, a senior, came through with arguably the biggest hit of her career to start the eighth.
"It means everything to me," Zielinski said. "Striking out in my last at-bat before, I came up and I was just thinking, 'See ball, hit ball.' Like I always say, you don't have to be big to hit big."
St. Charles East's Alex Wooten started the bottom of the seventh inning with a single, but was erased on a 2-4-1 double play on a bunt in front of home plate as Wooten attempted to run all the way to third.
Huntley second baseman Reese Hunkins took the throw at first base from catcher Lindsay Morgan for the first out and was surprised to see her pitcher standing at third for the tag out. Bower then struck out the next batter on a 3-2 count to send the game to extras.
"Usually I look at second after there's a bunt to see what the runner is doing," said Hunkins, a freshman. "I saw her go to third and I was surprised Bri was over there. ... We've never done that before."
Bower (27-5) finished with 13 strikeouts in eight innings, scattering two hits and two walks. Bower ended the season with a school-record 353 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings.
Huntley's 35 wins are the most in program history.
"This feeling is surreal right now," senior first baseman Grace Kutz said. "It's awesome to get it done for this school and the community. Not a lot of kids get to say they get to go to state their senior year, and not a lot get to say they won a state championship. It's phenomenal."
STAR OF THE GAME
Sofia Tenuta, Huntley, sr., DP
Tenuta (2 for 2) provided the game-winning sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth to score Taylor Zielinski in the Red Raiders’ 1-0 win in eight innings over St. Charles East.
1: State titles won by Huntley.
AND ANOTHER THING…
The Red Raiders are the first Fox Valley Conference softball team to win a state championship and only the second McHenry County area team (Marengo in 2011 and 2017 – Class 3A).