DU QUOIN -- The Du Quoin Middle School Warriors softball team (13-11) hosted Hamilton County Saturday in the regional championship game. Taking an early lead, the host team looked in good shape to win the title, but the Foxes rallied late in the game to take a 10-9 victory.
"We had some miscues and they were able to hit the ball when they needed to," said Warriors' coach Jason James. "Kudos to them for coming up to the plate and taking some hacks. I'm proud of our girls and the effort they brought to their season."
The Warriors jumped ahead to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Lauren Heape started things off with a base hit to right field. She made it home thanks to an RBI triple smashed into center field by Abbi Mocaby.
Mocaby was brought home on an RBI double by Ella West, who scampered home for the third run on an RBI single from Ayanna Dunklin.
The Foxes tallied two runs in response, but solid defense from West at third base and Loveleen Dunklin at shortstop halted their offensive push and kept the Warriors in the lead.
In the second inning, DMS pulled even further ahead with five more runs. They batted through their lineup, starting with Ellie Searby, who was walked. She and Heape were brought home by West on a two-run double into center field. Dunklin then drove West home with an RBI single to right field.
With the bases loaded, Ella Davis delivered an RBI single into left field, which brought home Dunlin and Malayna Russell (who was pinch running for pitcher Lexi Cobin).
Hamilton County closed the gap with two more runs to make the score 8-4, which is where it stuck for the next three and-a-half innings.
The Foxes then broke their scoring drought with five runs to take a 9-8 advantage after six innings.
The Warriors responded with a run to tie the game. Mocaby blasted her second triple of the game. She was later able to slide home safely just ahead of the tag on West's grounder back to the pitcher.
With the score knotted at 9, the Foxes regained the lead in the seventh. They loaded the bases and the game-winning run came in to score on a fly ball to center.
"We kept our composure throughout the game," James said after the Foxes claimed their trophy. "The sun was a factor for the both of us in the outfield. We did our best to battle through it. In the end, they (Foxes) just got the hits they needed at the right time."
This season for the Warriors was an improvement from past seasons, James said.
"We went from a group that was just here to a team," James said. "We started to know the (game) situations better and built confidence along the way. We just need to find a way to win a regional."