Sports

Class 3A state softball: Celtics pull out wild 3rd-place victory

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Providence Catholic celebrates after beating Mt. Zion, 16-15, in eight innings in the Class 3A State third-place game Saturday at East Peoria's Eastside Centre.[]

EAST PEORIA – A lot of third-place games in IHSA tournament play aren’t that exciting since the participants had been focused on playing for a state championship.

But Saturday’s Class 3A third-place game between Providence Catholic and Mt. Zion at EastSide Centre was far from boring.

The Celtics and Braves shattered the old four-class mark of 24 runs scored in a state finals game from 2010 in a wild contest that needed extra innings.

Providence overcame several deficits, including 15-11 in the seventh, and got the game-winner in the eighth for a 16-15 win at EastSide Centre.

Coach Jay Biesterfeld’s Celtics
(29-12) had 22 hits, while Mt. Zion (30-9) had 16 hits. Its hit total ties the state mark of 22 that Lebanon set in the previous highest-scoring contest. They equaled the program’s finish in its other state trip in 2012 while the Braves were making their first state visit.

“That’s got to be one of the most exciting third-place games that you’ve ever seen,” Biesterfeld said. “We’d battle back to take the lead, and then we’d lose it and battle, and then they would get the lead again. We knew that we would score some runs, so we told them to fight to the end. Just keep swinging, and we’ll find a way to get the runs that we need. It just had that feeling that whoever had the last at-bat was going to win, and it came down to our last strike, and it worked out.

“They all just got it done in pressure situations, and I’m so proud of them. It wasn’t the most well-played game by any means, but both teams had no quit in them, and it didn’t matter what the score was. We just had to stay positive and stay with it and see if we couldn’t find a way to pull it off, and they did.”

Several Celtics made major contributions in the comebacks. Shannon Smith led the way by going 4 for 5 with four RBIs. Other leaders were Teagan Sopczak (3 for 5, three RBIs), Taylor Young (2 for 5, homer,
two RBIs), Lex Leighton (3 for 5,
two RBIs), Hannah Falejczyk (2 for 3, homer, three RBIs) and Emily Pilon (3 for 4).

“I know that the seniors wanted to end with a win since not many people can say that,” Pilon said. “Our players are strong and pick each other up, and that’s something that we’ve built over the year. This team is so young and talented, and I don’t think they know how good they are, so they’re going to be back. I just like our character, and I love them all. You’re not going to remember all of the games, but you’re going to remember who you played with, and I’ll remember these girls.”

Stephanie Hurm (3 for 4, homer,
six RBIs) and Audrey Eades (3 for 4,
two RBIs) led the Braves, who scored four runs in the third and five runs each in the fifth and seventh innings.

Sopczak’s two-run double in the fourth, Falejczyk’s three-run homer in the fifth and Smith’s two-run double in the sixth were all huge Celtics’ hits.

“There was a lot of energy throughout the entire game,” Falejczyk said. “We’re a hitting powerhouse, and that really showed. It’s very nice to have our last game be the furthest that you can go and taking home a win. I will remember the connection that we all had. We were all very close, and there was no drama. This team was a big happy family, which was nice.”

Maggie Joutras led off the seventh with a solo homer, and Young hit a two-run home run to make it 15-14. Smith tripled with two outs and
two strikes and Leighton singled to tie it. In the eighth, the Celtics got
three hits with Sopczak getting a single for the game-winner.

“Both teams fought and tried to get a win in our last game, and that was our goal,” Young said. “For the seniors, finishing your high school career with a win is awesome since not a lot of people do that, so it’s very special.

“We both fought to the end. We knew that it would be a slugfest and did a very good job of knowing that and putting it into action when we got the opportunity.”