Kaylee Hayton may have been on the ropes at times in the circle, but the West Aurora senior pitcher came up big when it mattered Wednesday and led her team to a 6-4 playoff win over Plainfield East.
“I was thinking ‘I need to hit the ball,’” Hayton said of her at-bat in the top of the seventh with one out, the bases loaded and the game tied at 3-3.
“I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences. I knew that I needed to make good contact to try to get a run in.”
It wasn’t great contact, but good enough.
Hayton took a pitch from freshman Bianca Vozenilek that was in on her hands and lifted a soft liner “right over the shortstop’s head” to drive in a run.
The Blackhawks, seeded 10th in the Class 4A Oswego East Sectional, added two more on an infield error on a ball off the bat of Carley Frauenhoff and a sacrifice fly from Kendall Podschweit, then limited the No. 7 Bengals to one run in the bottom half.
The win avenged an 8-2 loss in the season opener and sends the Blackhawks (16-14) to Saturday’s 11 a.m. title game against the second-seeded hosts in the Class 4A Downers South Regional.
“When I looked up and it was 3-3 I was a little nervous,” West coach Randy Hayslett said. “[Hayton] was looking good and dominating the bottom of their order for awhile but we had her within one pitch of coming out on two occasions.
“She battled back and got the job done. That’s what a senior does.”
Hayton, who struck out 10 batters, walked just one and scattered four hits, also got the Blackhawks on the board in the first.
She followed a two-out double by Cara Jimenez with an RBI double.
Frauenhoff and Podschweit each added RBI singles in the third to make it 3-0 but a young East team that features three freshmen and three sophomores in the lineup struck for two unearned runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Two scored for the Bengals (16-15) on wild pitches.
Jazmine Torres opened the bottom of the seventh for the Bengals with a single and moved to third on a pair of wild pitches. Hayton got two strikeouts before yielding an RBI single to No. 9 hitter Samantha Pratsfer.
Leadoff batter Jessica Rio then tried to bunt for a single but Hayton fielded it and threw to second baseman Corey McCreedy for the final out.
“The first inning I thought we were a little tentative on offense and defense,” Plainfield East coach Chris Morris said. “Once we settled down I felt good about what we were doing. In that last inning, though, we made some mistakes that led to the big inning.”