WASHINGTON — Maddie Boucher proved to be a dual threat for the Normal U-High softball team on Saturday in the Class 3A Washington Sectional.
At the plate, the big first baseman hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Pioneers their first lead of the day. On the mound, she pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning and got the last three outs to save a 5-4 decision for U-High at Jan Smith Field.
The Pioneers (24-10) will face New Lenox Providence at Illinois Wesleyan on Monday in the Bloomington Supersectional.
"You’ve just got to give all the credit to U-High," Washington coach Stephanie Lawson said. "They came and did the little things right today and got the hits when they needed to."
The Panthers (30-7) took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by Saylor Marchand.
After U-High tied the game on an RBI double by Jen Kuhn, Washington took advantage of four U-High errors to score three runs in the fourth for a 4-1 lead.
The rally for the Panthers started when Alyssa Martin hit a ball that was booted by U-High third baseman Lexus Tennison. Martin got to second after a wild throw to first by shortstop Abby Knight, and got to third when nobody was covering the base on the play. Two Washington runs later scored on another error by Tennison off the bat of Marchand.
"When they hit that ball to third base and it got through one of my best players defensively, that can be a letdown moment," U-High coach Al Toliver said. "But we didn’t let down. We said, hey, we’re going to pick that up and we’re going to go back to work. And that’s what we did."
U-High pulled within 4-2 in the fourth on an RBI double by Makaylea Sepich.
In the fifth, Kuhn (2-for-4) started the Pioneers rally with a solid single to left. Tennison then hit a ball to deep center, but Kaitlyn Keeley dropped the ball, leaving runners at first and second with no outs.
On the ensuing pitch, Boucher hit a line drive that landed over the left field fence to give the Pioneers a 5-4 advantage.
"I was really just trying to get on base for my team," she said. "My first two at-bats weren’t that great. I was kind of chasing at stuff, and (Washington pitcher Noelle Hobbs) was trying to get me to chase outside. So that at-bat I cleared my head, scooted up at the plate a little, and went for the first one that looked good."
In the Washington seventh, U-High starter Maddie Roos gave up a double to Savannah Budd (2-for-3) and a single to Hayley Earl. That’s when Toliver brought in Boucher to close out the game.
Boucher walked Mary Toyne to load the bases. But she then struck out Kayana Diederich (2-for-4) and Martin, and got Allie Schrivner to hit a weak grounder back to the mound to end the game.
"As a hitter, you’ve got to be prepared for anything," Lawson said. "So no matter what pitcher they’re throwing out there, we’ve got to get our job done and think about our approach at the plate. (Boucher) came in and did exactly what she was supposed to do."
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.