SOFTBALL: Strong outing from Wills earns postseason win for Coal City
COAL CITY — The Coalers wrapped up their regular season with a commanding win against Morris and kicked off the postseason with an encore performance in the opening round of the IHSA Class 3A LaSalle-Peru Regional.
Zoe Wills delivered a strong performance in the circle for Coal City that led to a 7-4 win and a trip to LaSalle for today’s semifinal matchup with Joliet Catholic at 4:30 p.m.
The Coalers came out swinging, sprinting to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, with three of those runs coming on a pair of Morris errors.
That early 5-0 lead was never relinquished, but Morris was able to keep it close throughout with a handful of timely hits.
Wills surrendered back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases in the top of the fourth with no one out. The junior starter was able to noticeably hunker down to retire the next two Morris hitters without incident and looked as though she would escape the jam unscathed.
“I was throwing a lot of drop-curves, and I think they had just caught on to the timing. I hadn’t thrown enough changeups to throw off their timing, so it was all about pitch sequence,” Wills said. “Once they started to get the hang of it, I went more to the changeup and disrupted them a bit.
“I added some more spin to the drop-curve and tried to really focus on getting it to break outward instead of just down, which kind of gets hitters to lean a bit more.”
Her mid-inning adjustments looked as though they would result in her escape, but Morris came through just in the nick of time. Wills was one strike away from preserving her shutout when sophomore Taylor Nelson ripped a bases-clearing double to cut the Coalers’ lead to 5-3.
The Coal City offense picked up its pitcher in the bottom half of the frame, however, with dueling RBI doubles from Madison Emerson and Madelaine Ragain to go up 7-3.
Apart from one bad pitch that Morris slugger Claire Gugerty massacred for a towering solo home run to left-center to lead off the top of the sixth, Wills coasted her way to a complete game victory and the Coalers kept their season alive.
The win boosted their record to 10-16 overall and puts them in the path of an excellent JCA squad which has amassed a 23-8 record to this point. Head coach Stephanie Harmon and her squad are well aware of the task ahead of them.
“We left a couple runners on base, and tomorrow against JCA, we can’t do that,” she said. “We want to play well defensively and we want to avoid allowing them to get extra bases. We’ve been struggling with that all year.
“If we can hit our cuts, keep the runners out of scoring position and work low in the strike zone — I think we should be fine.”
Emerson went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs and two RBIs. Singleton had a pair of hits and scored three times. Cullick had a pair of hits and scored.
Wills went the distance in the circle, allowing four earned runs on eight hits.