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Bulldogs bark back to capture 2A Regional crown over Eldorado

  • Members of the Harrisburg coaching staff, along with the Harrisburg softball team, pose with the championship plaque after defeating Eldorado 8-7 Friday to claim the school's first regional title since 2014.

    Members of the Harrisburg coaching staff, along with the Harrisburg softball team, pose with the championship plaque after defeating Eldorado 8-7 Friday to claim the school's first regional title since 2014.
    SPYDER DANN | mdann@dailyregister.com

 
By Spyder Dann mdann@dailyregister.com
updated: 5/17/2019 10:22 PM

Harrisburg head coach Red Stafford admits that as his team trailed by three runs going into the bottom of the seventh, there was no "win one for the Gipper" speech.

There were no rally cries, there weren't even any rally hats.

There was some raking and ripping though as the Bulldogs barked back from a 7-4 deficit to survive a scare from Eldorado as the No. 1 seed Harrisburg won in walk-off fashion 8-7 to claim the school's first IHSA Class 2A Regional title since 2014.

Harrisburg (30-6) started the bottom of the seventh off with lead off hitter Madeline Rider rocketing a solo home run for her 11th of the season 26th of her career. That followed a one-out solo shot from Essence Sanders to pull within one at 7-6.

Karsyn Davis, who has a team-high 12 dingers on the season, was intentionally walked with Hailey Sullivan coming in as a pinch runner. Kerrigan Payne then reached on a bloop single and was replaced by Ashley Hammonds on base, all setting up the heroics of Lydia Miller.

Miller took a 2-2 count and hit a line drive to left center, as both Sullivan and Hammonds came around to score as Miller was mobbed at third base by teammates and coaches.

Stafford acknowledged his team hasn't been in this type of game situation very many times this year. On Friday, he was happy how his team responded.

We haven't been in this situation all year and most of the time, we're either way up or we're way down," Stafford said. "You have to give these kids credit. I go back and I give (assistant) coach (Jake) Stewart a lot of credit for this with his basketball program. These kids have all played in basketball games for him and they know what it's like to be in a big game so they battled and I just can't say enough about them. A lot of people would have just gave up. Madeline got us started with a home run and Essence had a couple of big hits on the day. Lydia come through big time for us."

Eldorado, who was the No. 8 seed in the Harrisburg Regional, found themselves down by three runs in the top of the sixth, before the Eagles mounted a furious comeback scoring six runs on four Harrisburg errors.

Cathlene Green led the sixth off with a solo shot and with one out, Ali Joyner singled to left field. Alexa Haenel then reached on an error, setting up Lacey Hobbs, whose slow roller resulted in a two-out error, scoring Joyner. Lexi Mitchell then reached on an error and scored Haenel. Paige Munds had a hard hit ground ball that scored two and Emma Wargel's double scored Munds.

Wargel, a sophomore, took the hard-luck loss in the circle for Eldorado. She gave up eight runs (five earned) on eight hits, while striking out seven and walking three.

EHS head coach Rick Dempsey said afterwards about Harrisburg's clutch hitting, "Whatever spot Emma hit, (Harrisburg) found it.

"We spotted them four runs, all unearned runs," Dempsey said. "That obviously didn't help. Our bats came to life and we proved what we were capable of. You can't do anything with home run balls. Harrisburg is a good team. We've got a good bunch of kids with everybody coming back. That's a good thing. They fought hard and they have nothing to be ashamed of. Harrisburg is not a non-hitting team and we knew that."

Harrisburg took a 2-0 lead after the first inning where King reached on an error and scored on Davis' RBI. Davis later scored on another error.

In the third inning, Rider reached on a base hit and scored on a run-down where an errant throw allowed her to plate.

Eldorado got one run in the top of the fourth when Joyner's bloop single scored Wargel.

Sanders single up the middle in the bottom of the fourth scored Rider, setting up the final innings of drama.

Kerrigan Payne improved to 23-5 on the season as Harrisburg claimed its third 30-win season. Payne, a freshman, allowed seven runs (three earned) on 11 hits, while striking out six.

At the plate, Harrisburg was led by Rider and Sanders, who both had multiple hits on the day. Rider was 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored, while Sanders was 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI and a run scored.

Mya King, Davis, Payne and Miller all had one hit as King scored one run, while Davis finished with an RBI and a run scored. Miller finished with two RBI.

Eldorado was led by Wargel ands Joyner, who each went 3-for-4 at the dish with an RBI and a run scored. Munds and Green were both 2-for-4 as Munds finished with two RBI and a run scored while Green drove in a run and scored a run.

Piper Debose was 1-for-4, while Mitchell scored one run.

Harrisburg will now play the winner of Du Quoin or Trico, in the Trico Regional in the semifinals of the Du Quoin Sectional on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

In the same Sectional at Du Quoin will be the winner of the Nashville and Hamilton County Regional. The championship game is slated for Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.

 
 
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