Softball: Cacini connects; Prospect, Hersey, Elk Grove share East title

Updated 5/16/2018 9:58 PM
  • Prospect's softball team gathers on the field after earning a share of the MSL East title by edging Hersey 2-1 on Wednesday.

      Prospect's softball team gathers on the field after earning a share of the MSL East title by edging Hersey 2-1 on Wednesday. John Leusch | Staff Photographer

Talk about a storybook ending for Alyssa Cacini's four-year career on the Prospect softball diamond.

And Judy Miller, who passed away earlier this spring, would be very proud of her granddaughter.

Cacini, the Knights' all-time leading home run hitter, smacked a one-out, 1-0 pitch over the right field fence for a walk-off home run that lifted Prospect to a dramatic 2-1 triumph over visiting Hersey on Wednesday in Mt. Prospect.

Cacini's 26th homer and single-season school-record record-tying 12th, gave the Knights a share of the Mid-Suburban East crown with the Huskies and Elk Grove, who all finished at 11-5.

By MSL tiebreaker rule, Hersey (20-6) earned the berth in Thursday's MSL championship game against West Division winner Barrington (28-3).

Cacini, also the school's all-time RBI leader with 136, thinks about her grandmother every time she takes the field.

"It was absolutely the biggest moment of my career and I knew she was watching down on me," Alyssa said. "So it was really cool. She is always in my mind when I'm playing. Everything is for her."

Making it even more special for Alyssa was that her mother, Robyn, was the announcer in the press box. Her grandfather, father and aunt were also among her family members on hand to see Prospect earn its first division title since 2007.

"It was kind of the picture-perfect ending," said Cacini, the Knights' third baseman who will play at Dayton next spring. "It's what I've worked for the whole four years here. To end like that was awesome."

Cacini's blast ended a pitcher's duel between Knights sophomore Claire Doherty (11-5) and Huskies junior Brianna Luciano (10-5).

Doherty tossed a 6-hitter with 3 strikeouts.

"I had a feeling Alyssa was going to do it on that second pitch," Doherty said. "It was beautiful, a great hit."

"I struggled in my last couple bats," said Cacini, who came up after Lauren Caldrone grounded out sharply on a nice play by shortstop Jodi Hermann. "I was just focused on getting a rally going, hitting something hard on a line. That's what I did and it ended up going over the fence."

"Our defense played great. Claire pitched awesome. To give up only 1 run was huge for us."

That 1 run for Hersey tied the game in the top of the sixth inning.

Luciano started the rally with a one-out single to left and went to third on Hermann's double to left. Luciano then raced home on Renae Curtis' sacrifice fly to center.

Prospect wasted little time getting on the board Wednesday. The Knights scored in the bottom of the first as Caldrone singled to center with one out.

She advanced to third on back-to-back walks to Colleen Palczynski and Alex Kanter. Caldrone then hustled home on a passed ball for the 1-0 advantage.

Caldrone is Prospect's all-time hits leader (167) and single-season leader (59).

Doherty gave up just 3 hits going into the sixth inning.

"I just went out there confident," she said. "And it was the whole team having confidence in each other. There were very good plays in the infield and the outfield."

Both coaches agreed the defense and pitching made for an excellent game.

"Overall, it was a great game," said Prospect coach Krystina Mackowiak who led Prospect to a division crown in just her second season. "I'd say both pitchers threw the games of their lives. It just came down to that one last hit. It was great defense on both teams' part. You don't see too many 2-1 games.

"And how fitting for Alyssa, who has been hitting so well all season. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Hersey coach Molly Freeman's team earned a second straight division title.

"I thought both teams played really well," Freeman said. "And that's what you'd expect to see from a championship game.

"I just don't think we hit well enough today. There were good plays being made by both sides. Both pitchers threw excellent. When you're in a game like this, it's going to come down to 1 hit."

Kaitlyn Pancini, Palczynski, Emalee Depa and Cassie Cunniff also had hits for the Knights.

Hersey received 2 apiece from Hannah Graff and Luciano (2-for-3, walk) and one from Makayla Tsagalis.

Now Freeman will take her team to the Fields of Dreams to face defending champ Barrington for the second straight year in the title game.

"I'm proud of the girls' effort," Freeman said. "I'm proud of our season. It's not over yet. We still have a lot of room to grow and a lot of time left in the season. I think we played well and deserved to be here."

Barrington has a record 11 MSL crowns under coach Perry Peterson and a record 13 in school history.

The Fillies completed a 16-0 season in the league, their fifth perfect conference record in 50 years of softball.

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