COAL CITY – Before the bottom of the seventh inning, the Coal City offense was almost nonexistent Wednesday afternoon against Morris freshman Abby Burns.
Burns had a perfect game, until Makenna Emerson hit a two-out single in the fourth inning. She then set down the next eight batters in a row. Hard contact was not being made.
It all changed in a blink of an eye with Burns two outs away from a shutout. Emerson tied the game with a solo home run to center field, and Abby Olsen and Emily Aichele followed with back-to-back doubles to give Coal City a walk-off, 2-1 victory over the Redskins in nonconference softball.
“I was just looking for a strike, really, just anything good,” Emerson said. “At first, I was up there in the take method, but after I saw that one pitch, then there was no waiting on that pitch. It just felt like the right one.”
Like Emerson, who said the pitch she drove over the center-field wall was a fastball on the outside part of the plate, Olsen and Aichele both hit the first pitch of their at-bats. Olsen’s was a liner into the gap in left-center, and Aichele’s a deep fly ball that was just out of the reach of Morris left fielder Kellen Bernickus.
“I was looking at it, and I was like, ‘Oh, shoot. This is really high,’ and I saw her like back-step to it,” Aichele said, “And once I saw it drop, I knew right from there [pinch runner] Kenady [Clayburn] was gonna be able to score, because she’s fast. She has long legs. She would take long strides and get in there.”
As Burns was shutting down the Coalers (15-13) for six innings, Aichele was matching her zero for zero. Morris finally broke through in the top of the seventh. Taya Torkelson hit a one-out single, moved to second base on a passed ball and to third on a Leah Lines groundout. After Bernickus was hit by a pitch, Maddy Feeney chopped a single up the middle to drive home Torkelson.
Feeney’s was only the fourth hit for Morris (17-7), which had none for extra bases.
“They’re going to hit. They’re eventually gonna catch up to [Burns],” Morris coach Jen Lowery said. “We gotta start hitting too. I mean, we weren’t hitting. We gotta back her up at the plate. Hits happen. It’s part of the game. I mean, they only had three good hits, and they were when they needed them. We haven’t done that lately.”
Other than the seventh, the only inning in which Morris had a runner in scoring position was the fourth, when Coal City errors loaded the bases. Aichele got Lines to ground out to leave them loaded.
“It was huge,” Coal City coach Stephanie Harmon said. “She’s been put in that position a lot, so kind of used to it. Our defense sometimes doesn’t do the best, so I mean she just has to get us out of jams. She holds her composure as a junior.”