With a league championship riding on the outcome, Glencoe and Jesuit played like it. Starting pitchers, Glencoe's Isabel Womack and Jesuit's Olivia Strickland, dominated in the circle, combining for nearly 20 strikeouts and allowing just six hits. But it was the Tide's Sydney Sahlfeld's sixth-inning flutter-ball to left that found a soft spot in the Crusader defense that ultimately gave Glencoe the 1-0 win.
Sahlfeld wasn't overly impressed with her "'big" hit when asked about it following the game, but admitted while not great, it was good enough.
"It wasn't necessarily 'big,'" she said with a chuckle. "But it worked."
And work it did. With the win, Glencoe clinched a share of the Metro League title with Westview. It was the second time this season that the Tide defeated the Crusaders, while Westview swept the Tide accounting for their only two league defeats.
It was a well-played game consisting of great pitching, tension-filled plays at the plate, and the type of intensity one would expect with so much on the line.
"It's all about competition," said Glencoe head coach Jason Eastman. "You just saw both sides fighting for their girls."
Like most teams in the Metro League who've been banging their heads against a Crusader wall for the bulk of their high school careers, the Tide took a little something extra from beating the No. 1-ranked team in the state.
"Beating Jesuit, there's always satisfaction from that," said Sahlfeld.
Glencoe junior catcher Ash Bailey agreed.
"It does feel good," she said. "They're a really solid team and both teams played really well. It was fun."
Pitching dominated the game in the early going, with neither team mounting a threat through the first two innings. In the third, Glencoe's freshman Alivia Eastman drew a lead-off walk and moved to second on a Taylor Butterfield sacrifice bunt. After Bailey struck out for the second out of the inning, shortstop Morgan DeBord singled to left field sending Eastman charging for the plate. But Jesuit's throw was on the mark and Eastman was called out, keeping the 0-0 tie intact.
A half inning later it was the Crusaders who took a shot at drawing first blood. Junior Reyan Tuck started the inning with a single, then stole second. After a groundout moved her to third, a Womack pitch went to the backstop and Tuck headed for the plate. But like the Tide before them, the Crusaders were denied the game's first run when Bailey tossed to Womack and a successful tag ended the Jesuit threat.
After Strickland struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth, Jesuit again threatened in the fifth but had their threat thwarted when Katie Corah was called out for runner interference when she knocked Glencoe's DeBord to the turf while trying to field the ball for the inning's final out. After a lengthy officials' meeting, the call was confirmed, setting-off the first of a handful of Crusader coaching disputes.
Nonetheless, the game went on and in the sixth, it changed in favor of the Tide.
Bailey walked to begin the inning, then a perfect sacrifice bunt by DeBord moved her to second. Sahlfeld then took an inside pitch and sent a lazy line drive into left field for what appeared to be enough to easily score Bailey from second. But the Glencoe catcher appeared to hesitate as she rounded third, allowing Jesuit an opportunity to throw her out at the plate. The throw was on the mark, but slightly late as the speedy Bailey slid-in under the tag for the game's first – and what would ultimately be the game's only – run.
"My coach told me to hold up, then he was like "go," Bailey said. "They have really strong arms, but it worked out."
Jesuit however, didn't go easily in the seventh. After Katie Corah struck out to start the inning, sophomore Sammie Petitt bunted and reached first when Sahlfeld's throw was off the mark. After a second strike out, Jaclyn Flood walked to put runners on first and second with two outs and the tension mounting. But Womack got Jenny Marnin to ground to DeBord whose throw was on the mark, and the side was retired and the Glencoe celebration began.
"It's pretty cool," said Sahlfeld. "I got my first conference championship, well, co-conference championship, but that's pretty cool."
The senior, whose seventh inning throwing error allowed Jesuit's first base runner, didn't let the mistake get to her and knew she could count on her pitcher, and teammates to pick her up.
"I felt kind of bad, but I knew Izzy was going to pitch her butt off for us and Morgan and Jessica and other fielders would help me out," said Sahlfeld. "We always think about getting the next one and letting that go. We always look forward."
Coach Eastman agreed with her sentiments and praised his team for the attitude and work ethic they've displayed all season.
"This team competes," he said. "There hasn't been one inning or one game that they haven't competed. We talk about that, and that's what we're excited about."
He was also excited about the performance of his pitcher, Womack, who he's marveled-at during the junior's time at Glencoe.
"She's just a hard worker," he said. "In the past she had some big games where it didn't go her way, but she had to go through that to get where she is today. It's fun to watch."
Glencoe has two non-league games scheduled for this week, while they await their first round playoff opponent Monday, May 22.