The Oak Park and River Forest girls softball team punched its ticket back to East Peoria in dramatic fashion on Monday with a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Marist to win the Oak Park Super-sectional championship and advance to the IHSA Class AA State Softball tournament for the fifth straight year.
The defending state champs trailed 1-0 heading into the final inning when Clare O’Connor tied the score with a two-out RBI double. Mary Zinni then drove in O’Connor with a two-run homer to left field for the game-winner.
“We knew in that last inning that we had to score, and to do it with two outs was amazing,” said the home run hero.
It was a defensive game for both sides. OPRF’s Seana Stillson (13-1) pitched a six-hit, three-strikeout game versus Colleen Biebel for Marist, who allowed five hits and struck out six.
Since both teams were number one seeds, a coin toss drew first bats for the Huskies (31-4). Aly Euler got a single in the first, but was left stranded. They had another scoring opportunity in the second when Megan Kiefer singled and a throwing error on a bunt by O’Connor had two on and one out. The next two batters grounded out and it remained a scoreless game.
The defensive play of the game came from O’Connor. The left fielder made a diving catch in the bottom of the second to rob a Marist batter of an extra base hit.
“She dove, caught it, rolled over three times and came up with the ball like a pro,” said OPRF head coach Mel Kolbusz, reflecting on the play after the postgame celebration.
Marist had a single in each of the first three innings, but the Redhawks couldn’t manage to send a runner home. Stillson pitched out of a jam in the fifth when the Marist had two on and no outs. Two pop fouls and then a fly out to centerfield ended the threat.
The sixth inning was a different story. Alison Parker hit a solo home run to put Marist up 1-0.
In the top of the seventh, Mattie Prodanovic hit a double to start the rally for OPRF.
“I just wanted to start something off. It’s happened so many times before, when someone gets a hit, we just rally,” said Prodanovic.
O’Connor then doubled her in to tie the game. With a runner on second and two outs, Zinni stepped to the plate and hit the monster two-run blast over the left field fence.
In the bottom of the seventh, one runner reached base for Marist on an error, but the Huskies held tough to secure the win.
“We knew we had to be strong in the last inning,” said Stillson.
“This is really a special team for me. We’ve had some really good teams before, and this is a really good team, but we’re just a bunch of no names except for our pitchers. The no names got it done today,” said Kolbusz.
Senior pitcher Holly Roadruck (14-2) summed it all up her team’s chances of defending its state title with, “We don’t have just talent; we have heart. And that’s what wins state.”
The Huskies take on New Trier at noon on Friday for the state quarterfinal. A win will have them playing the semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday against either Belleville East or Moline, whom they defeated 4-1 in 11 innings last season to win the state title. The Championship game will be held Saturday at 7 p.m.