St. Anthony softball defeats St. Joseph-Ogden in back-and-forth, wild contest to advance to forth-straight sectional title game

May 23—MONTICELLO, Ill. — Addie Wernsing wasn't going to let her team lose.

Neither were any of the other St. Anthony softball seniors.

And they didn't.

The Bulldogs defeated St. Joseph-Ogden, 11-10, in the Monticello Sectional Semifinals Tuesday to advance to the team's fourth-straight sectional title game.

"We gotta keep things exciting, keep you on your toes," head coach Makayla Taylor said. "They did such a good job battling. I knew St. Joe was gonna come out, ready to play."

St. Anthony started the game ahead 5-0. The Bulldogs scored all five runs in the second inning.

Stacie Vonderheide started the frame with a double. Laney Coffin then hit a single and later advanced to second on defensive indifference.

Julia Schultz then hit an RBI single, scoring Vonderheide.

Wernsing then plated Coffin and Schultz on an RBI single.

Abbi Hatton followed two batters later with a base hit. Sydney Kibler then reached on an error, allowing Wernsing and Hatton to score and making it 5-0.

St. Joseph-Ogden scored its first run in the bottom of the third when Timera Blackburn-Kelley stole home.

The Spartans then scored six more times in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-5 lead.

Grace Osterbur started the rally with a single. Addy Martinie was then hit by a pitch. Osterbur later stole third and Martinie advanced to second on defensive indifference.

Hayden Dahl then hit an RBI single, making it 5-2.

Emma McKinney followed with a base hit, scoring Martinie and Dahl and Blackburn-Kelly launched a two-run home run to give St. Joseph-Ogden the lead. Addison Frick then pushed a seventh run across on an RBI single before Martinie lined out to end the inning two batters later.

St. Anthony responded, though, just as they are prone to do.

The Bulldogs hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead right back, 8-7.

When asked if she'd ever witnessed that, Taylor said, "I don't think I have. That was really exciting, though."

Sydney Kibler started with a leadoff home run.

"We had to get things rolling because we only had three innings to work with," Sydney Kibler said. "We had worked on (Blackburn-Kelly) and knew what she threw.

"I knew what I was looking for."

Vonderheide followed with one of her own and Coffin hit one right after her.

"I was looking to hit the ball and get a hit and Stacie told me, 'Whatever I do, you gotta do,'" Coffin said.

St. Anthony then added two more runs in the sixth. Hatton and Sydney Kibler started with a pair of singles before Maddie Kibler hit a two-run double.

"I hadn't been hitting all day," Maddie Kibler said. "I left a lot of runners on before that."

The Spartans would then tie the game in the bottom of the sixth.

Wernsing provided the final blow, though, hitting a towering solo home run that hit off the centerfield scoreboard, making it 11-10.

"I was up in the count, 3-1, and I knew I wasn't hitting the best," Wernsing said. "I knew she was either going to throw it to me down the middle or going to walk me."

Wernsing then retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh. She induced a fly out, a ground out and struck out Blackburn-Kelly to end the game.

"I knew I couldn't leave anything over the plate," Wernsing said. "The umpire gave a lot on the outside corner, which really helped and I made sure I hit that."

Wernsing, Hailey Niebrugge, Hatton, Sydney Kibler, Vonderheide, Coffin and Schultz had two hits and Maddie Kibler and Lilly Gannaway had one.

Gannaway made a momentum-changing play in the fifth inning when she ranged to her left and dove to catch a pop fly in the outfield, robbing a base hit from Dahl.

"I just went for it," she said. "It's do or die right there; you gotta go for it. I just put my glove out, caught it and ended up falling."

Inserted into the lineup after Ady Rios was injured, Gannaway said she's been learning a lot.

"The pitching has been a lot different than the (junior varsity) pitching I've seen, but I've had the thought process of, 'Be loose, go up and do what you can,'" Gannaway said.

"I think one of the hardest things she's had to do is filling (in) at shortstop," Taylor added. "She's gone out there, asked the questions, done what she's can and she gives her all in every situation."

Madison Stevens started the game for the Spartans, though St. Anthony felt that Blackburn-Kelly would be the initial starter.

Stevens allowed six hits, five runs (three earned) and one walk in 1 2/3 innings before Blackburn-Kelly replaced her.

"Makayla had a scouting report on her and we knew she liked the outside corner and she had a rise ball," Wernsing said. "We didn't know her changeup was good. We needed to lay off, with two strikes, on the rise ball and crowd the plate."

St. Anthony will now face Normal (University) today at 5 p.m. for the sectional title. The winner advances to Monday's super-sectional at Millikin University.

"It means everything to me, honestly," said Coffin on what this softball team means to her. "I love these girls with my whole heart and would do anything for them."