SENECA — For five and a half innings on Tuesday night, the Coal City Lady Coalers were absolutely cruising in the regional semifinal against the Wilmington Lady Wildcats and appeared destined for a championship matchup against Interstate Eight rival and regional host Seneca. That’s when the Wilmington bats finally came to life, pushing across 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning en route to a 12-7 comeback win.
Before Wilmington got hot, Coal City jumped all over the Wildcats with a five-run second inning that looked as if it’d be enough to push the Coalers to victory.
With the Wildcats up 1-0 after scoring a run across in the first, a leadoff walk brought Coal City third baseman Hannah Boresi to the plate. Boresi failed to get a bunt down to move the runner over on two occasions, but after finally being turned loose with two strikes, she launched a two-run home run on a line shot that landed in the center field bleachers.
“When (Coal City head coach Stephanie Harmon) gave me the bunt sign I was a little nervous because I hate bunting,” Boresi said. “When I fouled two of them off, I figured I had to put the ball in play and I was lucky enough to hit the home run.”
Four batters later, the Coalers would add another home run. This time it was of the three-run variety by freshman shortstop and leadoff hitter Maddy Bunton. The big inning for Coal City gave senior starting pitcher Morgan Youskevtch the cushion of a 5-1 lead and she immediately went to work.
After giving up the first-inning run and walking the second hitter of the second inning, Youskevtch found her rhythm, retiring 11 straight batters and striking out four of them. Through five innings, she had allowed just the one run and only one infield hit.
Unfortunately, as Youskevtch continued to change speeds to keep the Wildcats off-balance, they eventually caught on in their third trip to the plate against her.
Wilmington used small ball and rattled off six straight hits to start the sixth, two of which being bunts and one being an infield single. The last of the six, a single by third baseman Kerri Moore tied the game at 5.
With Youskevtch struggling, Coach Harmon made the decision to stay with her senior.
“(Youskevtch) is my veteran pitcher – a senior – so I wanted to stay with her,” Harmon said. “She has been on the mound for us almost every game. I had my freshman warming up, but we were up four runs going into the sixth inning and I thought we’d be able to hold it out, but too little too late, I guess.”
With Morgan Youskevtch still in the circle, Coal City was finally able to record its first out of the inning on a groundout by Wilmington pitcher (and eventual winner) Paula Tupper. Unfortunately, the groundout drove in the go-ahead run.
Wilmington wouldn’t stop there.
They tacked on six more hits and six more runs, highlighted by a two-run home run by shortstop Kiley Southall. By the time the damage was done, Wilmington held a 12-5 lead and Coal City was down to their last bat.
The Coalers put up a fight, and cleanup hitter Gabby Bonic added a two-run homer – Coal City’s third home run of the game – that pulled them within five, but it wasn’t enough and Coal City fell by a 12-7 final.