GRAYSLAKE — Softballs were flying out of the park during Thursday's Class 3A Grayslake Central Sectional semifinal between Prairie Ridge and Richmond-Burton.
The two teams combined to belt seven homers — five by the Rockets and two by the Wolves — but when all was said and done, it was Prairie Ridge that emerged with a pulse-pounding 13-11 victory over R-B, while also surviving a wild late-inning rally.
After building what seemed like a comfortable 12-3 lead headed to the bottom of the sixth, Richmond-Burton scored four runs in the sixth on back-to-back solo homers by Peyton Bannon and Rachel Baker, who also ripped a three-run blast in the first.
That was followed by a two-run homer by Rockets starting pitcher Sophie Schwegel.
An inning later in the bottom of the seventh, Schwegel belted a three-run longball to left-center to cap another four-run inning, making it 13-11 before Prairie Ridge finally escaped with the victory.
Schwegel finished with five RBIs.
But despite Schwegel's monster day at the plate, it was Prairie Ridge junior Maggie Schremp's five-RBI game that stole the spotlight. Her three-run homer in the top of the fifth turned a one-run Wolves' lead into a four-run cushion. She then drove home two more in the sixth on a sharp single to left.
"Sophie was working both sides of the plate during my first two at-bats, so when I homered in the fifth, she threw me an outside pitch, and I just tried to go the opposite way with it," Schremp said.
"That (fifth) inning was the turning point," Wolves coach Jan Brown added. "When we stretched that lead out, we took a lot of momentum away from them. Maggie has struggled a little lately at the plate, so to see her come up huge in the biggest game of the season is awesome for us."
Wolves freshman catcher Madi O'Brien also had a huge day with the bat, going 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles, two walks, a two-run homer and four RBIs. And despite it being her first sectional game, she took charge defensively as well.
"There were a few times during the game when Madi shook our signs off and we let her," Brown said. "Despite all the runs both teams scored, she really had her pulse on things. That shows how much we trust her."
It helped Wolves starting pitcher Haley Barnes emerge a complete-game winner despite allowing 11 runs. Barnes worked the top of the strike zone at times, forcing 12 fly-ball outs. It also sent P-R (12-13), a No. 7 seed, to Saturday's sectional title game against No. 5 seed Vernon Hills (17-18) at 11 a.m.
"We don't want to quit playing," Barnes said. "We have way bigger dreams."
Despite a few tears after the loss, there were plenty of smiles, too, in the Richmond-Burton dugout. Schwegel is the Rockets' lone graduating senior.
"We played phenomenally today," R-B coach Vicki Klopf said. "Even though we have a young team, the past two seasons, we've won back-to-back regional titles, and these girls should be proud because it's helped put our team on the map. And for us to hit five homers today and rally the way we did ... heck, we only had one homer our first 10 or so games."
STAR OF THE GAME
Maggie Schremp, Prairie Ridge, jr., 1B
Schremp had a clutch momentum-changing three-run homer in the fifth, then a two-RBI single in the sixth to cap a pair of late five-run innings by the Wolves.
7: The number of combined homers by the two teams. This, after Vernon Hills and Antioch scored 27 combined runs in the other sectional semifinal this week.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
"That was definitely mentally and physically exhausting," P-R pitcher Haley Barnes said. "But also a ridiculous amount of fun to play in a game like that."
Prairie Ridge 13, Richmond-Burton 11
Prairie Ridge 101 055 1 – 13 12 0
Richmond-Burton 300 004 4 – 11 10 3
WP: Barnes (7IP, 10H, 11R, 11ER, 5BB, 6K). LP: Schwegel (5.1IP, 9H,12R, 9ER, 4BB, 4K).
Top hitters–Prairie Ridge: Schremp 2 for 4 (HR, 5 RBI), O'Brien 3 for 3 (HR, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 2 BB), Crimaldi 1 for 2 (2 RBI, BB), Kiddy 2 for 4 (BB), Farnam 2 for 5, Barnes 2 for 5 (2 RBI, 2 BB). Richmond-Burton: Schwegel 2 for 4 (2 HR, 5 RBI), Bannon 2 for 3 (HR, RBI, BB), Baker 2 for 3 (2 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Malchin (RBI single).