Softball: Grant falls to McHenry in regional final
McHenry's four seniors -- Lauren Sena, Kyra Lard, Kiana Johnson and Peyton Atwater -- felt strongly that they needed to keep the softball team's regional title streak intact after the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 team was senior heavy, with eight high school careers getting cut short. One of those seniors, Loyola freshman Jocelyn Currie, was on hand Thursday to witness McHenry's latest title.
The Warriors continued their postseason dominance with a 7-1 win over Grant in their Class 4A regional final. The Warriors now have won four straight regional titles and eight in the past nine seasons (not counting 2020).
Second-seeded McHenry (19-9) advances to face top-seeded Harlem in a sectional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"It feels great," said Lard, a three-year varsity player who will play next year at Wisconsin-La Crosse. "There's nothing else to say, really. We want to keep it going as long as we can. I'm so grateful that I got a season. I felt so bad for the seniors last year. It just feels so great to be back playing."
"We're just trying to have fun, for as long as we can," Warriors coach Mikaela Mitsch said. "I don't know if they understand the importance of it yet, because of how young they are. We counted before we came into regionals. We only had two girls out of 18 on our roster that have seen postseason play. It's pretty exciting."
After both teams were held to 1 hit apiece through two innings, McHenry broke the game open with a 5-run third, collecting 4 hits against pitcher Tara Levernier. Lard (2-for-3) hit a triple to center field and drove in a run, Sena (double) and Emma Stolzman both had a sacrifice fly, and the Warriors added 2 more runs on errors.
McHenry's Ana Gerstung started the fourth with a base hit to left and came around to score on a bunt by Stolzman, giving the Warriors a 6-0 lead.
Warriors freshman pitcher Channing Keppy allowed only 5 hits, striking out 3 and walking none. She had allowed only 3 singles until the seventh. Grant's Becca Fabry and Kaylin Berwanger both had doubles in the seventh, but Keppy struck out the last batter to seal the win.
Grant (10-18) coach Chris Van Alstine was impressed by Keppy's demeanor and accuracy.
"We were very aggressive and were attacking a lot of times the first thing she threw, whether it was a strike or not," Van Alstine said. "To her credit, she was putting the ball where she wanted to. To us, it looked like it was a strike and it ended up jamming us or tailing outside a little bit. She did a great job locating."