CHESTER -- A little dinked grounder produced the only runs of the game as the Du Quoin High School softball team fought hard but lost to Trico, 2-0, Monday in the championship game of the Chester 2A Regional at the Cohen Complex.
Trico advances to the Johnston City Sectional with a 27-4 record, while Du Quoin finishes at 19-12 and is left wondering what could have been.
"We just ask the kids to bust your butt and work hard and you never know what's going to happen," said Du Quoin coach Jason James. "We gave ourselves a chance today. That's what you want out of a group of kids.
"I couldn't be more proud of them and how hard they played and how hard they worked."
Du Quoin played outstanding defense but had just one hit and went scoreless against hurler Jade Kranawetter, a versatile standout headed to SIU-Edwardsville. Kaylee Aleshire reached on an error in the third and walked in the fifth but was the only baserunner until Morgan Bullar singled with two outs in the sixth.
"They've got a great pitcher who kept us in check," James said. "We worked on catching up to her speed and staying off the rise and we chased it several times. She did a good job of throwing it whenever she needed to."
Du Quoin pitcher Chloe Hill was spectacular against a tough Trico lineup, not allowing any extra-base hits and striking out three.
"I thought Chloe Hill threw fantastic against a team that puts up 10 or 12 runs every time they come out," James said. "She did a great job and we really stressed that out there in the (postgame) huddle. She doesn't feel like she did, but she kept us in the ballgame and you've got to put runs up to even have a chance."
The runs came in the third inning -- and in frustrating fashion for the Lady Indians.
Hill got the first two batters of the frame to ground out, then Kranawetter singled and stole second base before Danyelee Eilers drew a walk.
Both runners moved into scoring position with a wild pitch, but then Juhle Prange hit what looked to be a harmless little dribbler just past Hill in the pitching circle toward second baseman Meryn Gross.
Gross fielded the ball and threw to first baseman Grace Haney, but Prange beat the throw to the bag and not only did Kranawetter score but Trico coach Drew Franklin sent Eilers home and she scored just ahead of a throw by Haney to catcher Maci McKinnies.
Two runs on an infield single.
"A little slow roller," James said. "We get there but we just don't get the play. Drew's a great coach and he sends the second kid going through on the slow play and they end up getting two runs out of that. You hate for that to be the decisive runs but it is what it is."
Prange singled again in the sixth inning but was thrown out at home plate trying to score on a fly ball by Lexi Smith. Du Quoin center fielder Chloe Hess caught Smith's popup and threw a strike to McKinnies to nail Prange for an inning-ending double play.
"Hess came up gunning," James said. "And Maci's like 4-foot-2 and she held her own in there with someone flying at her."
Riding that momentum bounce, Hill led off the seventh and reached on an error, then moved to second on a wild pitch, but was left stranded. Gross grounded out and Avery Waller popped up, then Kranawetter ended the game by fanning Aleshire for her seventh strikeout.
Du Quoin has three seniors -- Haney, Aleshire and Avery Shivley -- and could have seven seniors next season, five of which are already three-year starters. Aleshire and Shivley were first-time starters as seniors.
Although the future is certainly bright, the departing Lady Indians will be greatly missed.
"You love kids that come out and work and give you all they've got and don't complain," James said. "And that's what we had this year."