Prep Softball

Raiders show grit, capture first regional title since 2016

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 18, 2019 1:00 am Updated: May. 18, 2019 1:14 am

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Quincy Notre Dame softball coach Eric Orne may have been the person most excited about winning a regional title.

After QND third baseman Kegan Wall fired the ball across the infield to first baseman Katie Cowan to win Friday's Class 2A regional championship 5-2 over Illini West, Orne burst from the Raiders dugout with his arms straight up in the air. The QND players on the field only celebrated once they saw their coach.

"They've just come a long way," Orne said. "We've lost the first game the last couple of years, and Illini West has been kind of the top dog the last few years. We had to come up here and have the toughness and the competitiveness."

QND (25-7) showed enough to knock off the regional's top seed for its first regional crown since 2016. The reward is a spot in the Class 2A Brimfield Sectional semifinals where it will face either Tremont or Brimfield at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Raiders led 3-1 in the bottom of the third when the Chargers loaded the bases with two outs. QND freshman pitcher Eryn Cornwell got out of the jam with a strikeout.

Illini West loaded the bases again in the fourth with just one out, and Cornwell again got out of trouble with a popout to second and a groundout.

"My defense was making plays behind me," Cornwell said. "I knew if they'd put the ball in play they'd get the ball. That relieved a lot of pressure."

Orne said those plays started with Cornwell in the circle. She scatted six hits while striking out four and walking three.

"That was not freshman-level pitching," Orne said. "That was someone with experience making big pitches when she needed to in big-time situations."

QND extended its lead to 5-1 in the sixth when Wall drove in a run on an infield single, and Emma Borrowman scored on a passed ball.

Illini West (26-7) cut into the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Daytona Dooley's RBI triple scored Ali Bliss to make it 5-2. It was the last hit the Chargers had as Cornwell retired the final four batters she faced.

"They were just everywhere that they hit it," Illini West's Katelyn Murphy said. "We couldn't find a hole tonight. It sucks. It hurts. It stings, but look at what we've done this season. That's remarkable for our program."

Illini West, which had its run of four straight regional championships snapped, stranded 10 runners.

"I think we had eight after the fourth inning," Illini West coach Ryan Bliss said. "You need a hit to the outfield to get at least one in. We had the people we wanted up with the bases loaded, and we just didn't come through."

QND struck for two runs in the first inning as Wall and Catherine Steinkamp had back-to-back RBI singles.

"To get two in the first inning was really nice," said Wall, who bookends her QND career with regional titles. "It was relaxing for Eryn and the team."

Illini West cut the deficit in half on Sydney Carlisle's RBI single that plated Dooley.

QND got the run back in the second on Cornwell's RBI single.

Wall, Kailey Wall and Steinkamp each had two hits for QND. Kegan Wall had two RBIs.

Bliss and Dooley each had two hits for the Chargers.


Class 2A Illini West Regional

Quincy Notre Dame 5, Illini West 2

QND 210 002 0--5 9 4

Illini West 100 001 0--2 6 4

Cornwell and Fischer; Lawson, Talley (3) and Carlisle. WP--Cornwell. LP--Lawson. 2B--QND 1 (Gilligan), Illini West 1 (Talley). 3B--Illini West 1 (Dooley).