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Minooka softball crowned state champs

The Minooka softball team won its first ever title on Saturday after beating St. Charles 
East in the championship game.
The Minooka softball team won its first ever title on Saturday after beating St. Charles East in the championship game.

EAST PEORIA — Fourteen runs on 19 hits — three of which were home runs.

Those are new numbers for the IHSA record book for the Class 4A state championship now that the Minooka softball team roared its way to the school's first state title in the sport. Playing on Saturday down at Mizuno Field in East Peoria, the Indians dispatched St. Charles East by a 14-3 score in a game that ended in the bottom of the sixth inning on a three-run walk-off home run by leadoff hitter Rachel May.

"This is unbelievable. Everyone came out fired up. I can't believe we hit the way we did," Minooka senior captain Sara Novak said. "We knew we had a strong lineup, but it just seemed like everybody was putting good swings on the ball all day. "It's crazy. To come out and score so many runs against a good team like that. It's unbelievable."

The run-rule victory by Minooka is just the second ever in a championship game in the history of the IHSA (Moline 2006).

"That's amazing. To tell you the truth, we felt that we had the offense all year," Minooka coach Mark Brown said. "We went through a little dry offensive spell during the season and with the weather the way it was, we never really got into a rhythm. But we've been scoring consistently in the playoffs."

The victim of the onslaught was junior pitcher Haley Beno. She went all 5 1/3 innings and all 14 runs she allowed were earned.

"St. Charles is a good team and she (Beno) is a good pitcher," Novak said. "I just felt that we were hitting every thing she threw up there. We were putting good swings on everything."

"She (Beno) threw a lot of strikes and had decent speed and we like hitting off of pitchers that throw like that," senior captain Jackie Lilek said. "We felt hot going in."

Minooka started scoring early with a three-run first and the Indians added one run in the second. In the first, Marissa Burns reached on a bunt single and Novak (4-for-4) doubled to left. Kelsey Smith (2-for-4) then singled in both runners and took second on an error by the East left fielder. Courtesy runner Alyssa Hajduk then eventually scored the last run of the frame on an RBI single by Mikayla Melone.

The Fighting Saints then mounted their only real threat of the game in the second inning against starter Lilek after a walk, single triple and another walk, but that was the extent of East's offense the rest of the day. Novak came in to start the third and threw four innings without allowing a baserunner while striking out four in recording the win.

Minooka went 1-2-3 in the third inning but then broke the game wide open with four in the fourth, two in the fifth and four more in the sixth.

In the fourth, Jordyn Larsen singled, stole second and one out later advanced to third on an errant throw by the East left fielder. Burns drove her in with a single. Novak then hit the first homer of the game for the Indians to make it 7-3 at the time but locals weren't done scoring. Smith singled and courtesy runner Hajduk stole second before scoring on an RBI single by Lilek.

Larsen's second home run of the tournament accounted for both runs in the fifth and it plated Kelli Holstine (single) and that set the stage for the walk-off win with one out in the sixth. In the sixth, Lilek doubled, Melone singled and Ali Bagley pinch ran, Holstine singled in the first run and one out later the Indians walked off following May's blast down the line in left.

"I'm known for pulling them way foul. On that one I just waited a little longer and got a hold of one," May, another senior captain, said. "It's the perfect ending. I had it in the back of my head just to get a hit and that happened."

"I'm happy for Rachel. I can't think of a better was for her to end her career," Novak said. "It was a fitting way to end it. Everyone contributed. Everyone got hits and everyone drove in runs."

Now Minooka Community High School has a second team state championship trophy (wrestling) on its mantle forever.

"It still hasn't hit me. It's so surreal. It's what we've been working so hard for for the last four years of our lives," senior captain Mikayla Melone said. "For it to be here, it's unreal. We earned it. We deserve it. I'm so happy. As a senior, this is going out with a bang. It was great for us to put it all together and do it as a team."

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