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Morris softball beats Pontiac in regional opener

PONTIAC — After giving up its 4-1 lead in the 6th inning against Pontiac on Monday in the Streator regional play-in game, Erica Gualandi made sure her team would end up on the winning side, driving in the game winning run in the 9th inning to lead the Morris Redskins to a 7-4 victory. The Redskins advance to the regional semifinals Tuesday against LaSalle-Peru.

"It felt great," Gualandi said. "When I slid in to second and I was called safe it was an incredible feeling."

Morris had been leading all day up to the 6th, as they had had RBI base hits from Laney Torkelson, Kelly Kolotka, and Maddie Feeney in the first two innings to take a 3-0 lead. 

"It was very important to jump out early and make sure we had some early runs," Gualandi said. "It let us have some breathing room so we didn't feel down on ourselves." 

The offensive output for the Redskins was outstanding all afternoon, as they belted out 16 hits off Pontiac pitcher Juila Hogan. 

"We're going to need hitting days like today to be successful," Morris head coach Jen Lowery said. "Our hitting has been coming around since the beginning of the season, so it's great to see that out of our team."

As Morris kept on hitting, Gualandi kept on dealing in the circle, only giving up an RBI groundout to the Indians' Miranda Fitzsimmoms for the only run of the game.

The sixth inning, though, is where the game became interesting. With a 4-1 advantage, it seemed as if Morris was going to be able to cruise to a victory. Pontiac did not quit, however, as they tallied three runs in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at four. A passed ball by Redskins' catcher Alex Cook brought home the Indians' Jordan Johns to tie the game up. 

"It felt good to get back in the game. Minor errors had put us in that position, so to fight back was good to see," Pontiac head coach Nicole Ropp said. "The girls started to take more pitches at the plate, and it led to a big inning."

After two scoreless innings from both teams, Morris finally pulled through in the ninth, as they pushed across three runs to pull away from the Indians. Along with Gualandi's hit, Leah Lines and Emily Moore had RBI base knocks to secure the win for Morris. A 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the ninth from Gualandi ended it.  

"It feels good to win," Lowery said. "The girls played their heart out all day. It got frustrating at times but the girls never got their heads down. They all made great plays, and our under classmen really did big for us today."

Morris advances to the regional semifinals where it will play LaSalle-Peru, a team they lost to earlier in the season. The game is being held at Streator High School.

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