SENECA — With a 2-1 victory over Wilmington on its senior day Friday afternoon, Seneca clinched its first Interstate Eight Conference softball championship in since 1998.
Now 11-4 in conference play, the Lady Irish trailed 1-0 from the top of the third inning until the bottom of the sixth, when Sarah Radtke hit a one-out, two-run home run over the left-field wall, scoring senior Chelsie McCormick, who had reached on a bunt single.
“I’ve been hitting high pitches well lately,” Radtke said. “I’ve become so close with these seniors. I’m so happy to be able to come through for them.”
Winning pitcher Nicole Pihl, who gave up just one unearned run in seven innings, had led off the sixth in what had the potential to be her final home at-bat. Seneca will host, and could play in, a Class 2A Super-Sectional. Pihl grounded out, only to watch McCormick and Radtke come through behind her.
“I have so many great memories of playing on this field. ... No matter what happens, I’m very privileged to have played here,” Pihl said.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I just had a feeling (Radtke) was going to hit a home run today. I guess it’s just because she’s been hitting so well lately, and she’s had good success against their pitcher, Paula (Tupper), in the past. I’m so proud of (McCormick and Radtke). My senior night couldn’t have been any better.”
Along with McCormick and Pihl, April Hovious, Erin Hovious, Sam Stuedemann and Mallory Wilson are seniors for Seneca. Wilson hit a pair of deep fly balls Friday that were both tracked down and caught by Wilmington center fielder Miranda Southall.
“It’s a very special class,” Seneca coach Dan Stecken said.
“It’s tough to say goodbye to every senior group, but this one really stands out. A lot of people just want to point to Nicole, but the other girls have contributed a lot to our program as well.”
Seneca will conclude its regular season with a doubleheader at Streator Saturday before meeting Wilmington again Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the 2A Beecher Regional. The Lady Irish are seeded second in the regional, while Wilmington is third.
“If it could be a little bit more comfortable the next time, I would be fine with that,” Pihl said, “but we did a great job of finding a way to win.”