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MTZ softball strikes back, wins sectional championship at Chatham

The Mt. Zion softball team celebrating and stopping for a photo after winning the IHSA 3A Sectional Championship hosted at Chatham Glenwood.

By BLAKE FAITH
Staff Writer

Last year, the Braves season ended in the sectional semifinals against Chatham Glenwood in Mt. Zion. Chatham Glenwood’s starting pitcher Irie Lohrenz threw two no-hit innings and the Titans had a 2-0 lead after two innings against the Braves in the IHSA 3A Sectional Final at Chatham Glenwood. That all changed in the bottom of the third when senior Molly Besser got her first of two hits hitting a double to left-field to ignite the Braves to a 6-3 sectional championship win.

“I am feeling grateful,” Head coach Greg Blakey said. Our kids have matured a ton in the last year. Last year they were playing the better team, they (Chatham) again had a great team. This year we were able to string together that four running inning with the back to back home runs which helped turn the tide. I am very proud of our growth.”

Besser got to second and then Jolie Shafer layed down a bunt that would result in a Titans’ error scoring Besser and getting Shafer to second cutting the Titans’ lead 2-1. Two batters later, the Braves took the lead when Kennedy Highley crushed the ball over the right centerfield wall on a 2-2 pitch to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.

The Braves were not done in the bottom of the third as starting pitcher Dakota Harrison added an insurance run. Harrison got her bat on the ball and launched it over the left field wall to give the Braves a 4-2 lead.

“That was a huge turn and Bigfoot momentum for us. The kids did a good job.,” Coach Blakey said. They are very calm and they don’t get shaken up when they have a bad at bat. The first two innings of at-bats weren’t great at bats, but give the pitcher credit. We did a good job of being calm and having some good at bats.“

The Titans offense tried to stick in it in the top of the fourth, scoring one run, but the Braves stranded three of the Titans’ base runners. The Braves offense stayed hot as Anna Cox hit a double to the centerfield wall. Besser then stepped to the plate and slapped a hit into the left field gap. Cox and Besser fooled the Titans’ defense with their base running as Cox slid into home plate to score to give the Braves a 5-3 lead.

The Titans failed to score in the top of the fifth and Addi Rotz hit a homerun over the centerfield wall on her last strike of her at-bat to give the Braves a 6-3 lead. The Braves’ defense continued to shut down the Titans’ offense including a double play from Cox to end the top of the sixth and in the top of the seventh ended the game on a pop out stranding 12 Titans’ base runners.

The Braves improved to 30-5 overall and will play Charleston on Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Millikin in the sub-sectional. The Braves swept the doubleheader against their Apollo Conference for. If the Braves win, they will play in the IHSA 3A State Championship at Louisville Sluggers in Peoria.

“It’s the same thing I’ve told you every week,” Coach Blakey said. “We have to focus on ourselves. We can’t worry about what our teams do. We have to do what we do well and keep rolling that way.”

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