Article Courtesy BCR — The Princeton Tigresses made history Monday, defeating Erie-Prophetstown 4-3 to capture the Alleman 2A softball regional championship.
The regional title is the first for the PHS program which started in 1992.
“Princeton’s been waiting for that for a long time,” first-year PHS head coach Joe Bates said. “For as long as we’ve had softball, we’ve been unable to get through regional and today we did it. I’m very proud of my girls.”
Princeton (15-10) will meet another TRAC East rival, Sterling Newman (16-9), at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the first semifinal of the night in the Orion Sectional. Newman beat Fulton 3-0 last week to win its own regional.
“We’re ready to go. We can go straight to Orion if you want,” Bates said. “It was worth waiting for. It was long wait (after two cancellations), but the girls came 100 percent ready to play. That’s all I can ask.”
The Tigresses jumped on the Panthers for three runs in the top of the first inning. Senior Kendra Cain and freshman Hannah Muehlschlegel both beat out bunt hits on bang-bang plays at first base and scored on a double down the left-field line by freshman McKenzie Hecht.
Freshman Abby Peterson followed with a RBI hit to right field to score Hecht to give PHS a 3-0 lead.
“We got up in the first inning and that was very, very important,” Bates said. “Erie-Prophetstown kept pecking away. Coming back, coming back. But we slammed the door when we had to and got the job done.”
Muehlschlegel added a RBI double to left to score Kenzie Coleman, who reached on a fielder’s choice, to make it 4-0.
While it proved to be their fifth straight defeat in regional championship play, E-P coach Kerrie Tenboer knew her Panthers would battle back.
“All season long, we’ve been fighting back. We did a great job of that tonight. We just couldn’t get that one extra run that we needed. Things didn’t fall our way tonight,’ Tenboer said.
The Panthers got two runs back in the bottom of the third inning. Olivia Hope-Toppert had a lead-off hit, was bunted over by Skylar Steimie and scored on a two-out hit by Calissa Steel. Jaden Johnson kept the line moving by reaching on an error and Jess Woodworth singled to load the bases. Erica Thulen followed with a hit to center-field, scoring Steel, but Johnson was gunned out at home by Muehlschlegel.
Tenboer questioned the umpire whether PHS catcher Olivia Alter had blocked the plate before she had the ball, but the call stood with the out ending and PHS escaping further trouble and leading 4-2.
“In my view, I thought she was there a little early before she had the ball. It’s a tough one,” Tenboer said.
Bates thought Alter made a clean play.
“I thought she had the ball. I thought the umpire made a good call,” he said. “It was a terrific play and very important.
PHS pitcher Katie Bates retired the side in order int he fourth, but Emma Davis sparked an E-P rally with a one-out double to center in the fifth. Johnson knocked in Davis with a single to make it 4-3, but Thulen was called for interference running into PHS short stop Olivia Vergamini, for the third out.
Even though they fell short in the regional championship once again, the Panthers can rest their hats on being crowned TRAC East champions and finishing with a 22-9 record.
“I just told the girls we have a lot to proud about or this season. I mean, we finished 22-9. We’ve been playing a lot of games back to back and these last few weeks it’s been slowing down. I wish we could have wound up playing (Friday), but you can’t do much about the weather. But yea, we have a lot to be proud of and I hope the girls have a lot to be proud of.”