MORRIS — Sometimes a long layoff before the playoffs begin can be a bad thing for a team. They might lose a slight bit of competitive edge that is so important when the postseason rolls around.
The Morris softball team had not played for a week and a half entering Wednesday's Class 3A Morris Regional semifinal game against Kankakee, but coach Jen Lowery was pleased with the result as a 9-0 victory propelled her team into Saturday's title game against Providence. The Celtics defeated Coal City, 10-0, in the first semifinal Wednesday.
Behind a dominant pitching performance by senior Abby Burns, the Redskins (25-7) rolled to the win. Burns allowed just three hits in six innings without walking a batter and striking out seven. She gave way to Gigi Corban in the seventh, and Corban retired the Kays 1-2-3 with a strikeout to end the game.
"Abby has been busting her butt in practice," Lowery said. "She's been working on some new pitches to throw in different situations."
Everything was working for Burns, which gave the offense plenty of time to come to life.
However, it didn't need very long.
In the bottom of the first, the Redskins got all the runs they needed. Janelle Brehm led off with a single and stole second before Burns singled up the middle to put runners on first and third. A wild pitch scored Brehm with the game's first run. Courtesy runner Bayli Doss was called out for leaving the base too early with Ashley Phelps at the plate before Phelps doubled to right-center and went to third on a wild pitch. A grounder to second by Ryan Friend scored Phelps for a 2-0 Morris lead after an inning.
In the bottom of the third, Brehm walked and went to second on a wild pitch. She went to third on a grounder to first by Phelps before scoring on another wild pitch to make it 3-0. In the bottom of the fourth, Jasmine Cook and Rachel Trader each got the first of their two hits, and Melissa Benson sacrificed Cook and courtesy runner Megan Gerisher to third and second, respectively. An out later, sophomore Olivia Schultz singled to right to score both runners to open the gap to 5-0.
"I fouled off a couple of pitches and finally got one I could hit," Schultz said. "I haven't been doing very well at the plate lately, so I knew I had to get it going. It felt good to get our score higher."
Morris nearly made it a 10-run rule game with four in the bottom of the sixth, but fell a run shy. Benson and Burns each had an RBI single in the sixth, while Brehm drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
"After not playing for a while, it was good to come out and shake the rust off," Lowery said. "We feel like we are a pretty similar team to Providence, so we expect that to be a good game Saturday. If we can come out and execute and make plays like we did today, we should have a good chance."