AURORA — The Holy Family softball team had an opportunity to make a statement early. Later, the Tigers refused to go down meekly, very nearly pulling off what would have been a monumental comeback.
In between, however, Holy Family was dominated by Valley pitcher Bridgette Hutton, dooming the Tigers’ state title hopes. Hutton and the Valley Vikings ended Holy Family’s stellar season in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, handing the Tigers a 3-1 defeat in the Class 3A state semifinals at the Aurora Sports Complex.
Valley scored two runs in the top of the seventh and Holy Family’s desperate two-out rally in the bottom half of the frame fell short, as the Tigers ended the season with an 18-4 mark. Holy Family, which has reached the state tournament in 13 consecutive seasons, advanced out of the quarterfinals for the first time since the program’s 2008 appearance in the Class 3A title game.
“That showed the character of what our team is about and what our seniors is about,” Holy Family coach Glen Ramos said. “This was tough. Any time you have seniors that work as hard as they do, it’s always a tough loss.”
Holy Family enjoyed a golden opportunity to claim a meaningful lead in the first inning, loading the bases with just one out. But a force out at the plate, followed by a fly out, ended the threat. From there opportunities proved to be scarce against Hutton.
The Tigers did take the lead in the second on an impressive hustle play by senior Maeve Donovan. With Donovan on second, Holy Family’s Tess Cartin knocked an infield single up the middle. Donovan opted to test the Valley defense by racing for home, and she used a deft slide to avoid the tag and give the Tigers a 1-0 edge.
“It was a close play and I knew their shortstop has a great arm,” Donovan said. “But I knew we needed a run and I had to do it for our team. The catcher was going down the line for the tag, so I came around the side of her and dove back. I just did what I needed to do to help the team out.”
With Holy Family runners still on second and third with two outs after Donovan’s mad dash, Hutton ended the threat and promptly began mowing down the Tigers. From the last out of the second inning through the sixth, Hutton retired 13 of 14 Holy Family hitters, at one point setting down 12 in a row.
Valley tied the game on an RBI triple by Randee Hochmiller in the top of the fourth and scored the two decisive runs in the seventh. The Vikings opened the final frame with consecutive singles and scored the go-head run on a passed ball. Trinity Harrington followed with a sacrifice fly that gave Valley a crucial insurance run.
Holy Family attempted to coax some two-out magic in the bottom of the seventh when senior Moriah Turney and Cartin kept the Tigers alive with back-to-back singles. Senior pitcher Nicole Gardon did everything in her power to deliver the big hit, working the count full and fouling off three two-strike pitches, but Hutton won the battle and the game by inducing Gardon to pop out to shortstop.
“We are a hard-fighting team and we were all season — we did not lie down for anyone,” Gardon said. “That last at-bat, she threw me inside, she threw me outside. My props go out to Bridgette Hutton. She’s a phenomenal pitcher.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07
Valley 3, Holy Family 1
At Aurora Sports Complex
Valley (19-4) 000 100 2 — 3 9 0
Holy Family (18-4) 010 000 0 — 1 5 0
W — B. Hutton (9-2). L — Gardon (13-3)
Valley hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — H. Hutton 4-1-2-0, Tapia 3-0-0-0, B. Hutton 2-0-1-0, Harrington 3-0-1-1, Gill 4-1-2-0, Kline 3-0-0-0, Even 2-0-0-0, Schlegel 1-0-0-0, Hochmiller 3-0-2-1, Kawata 3-1-1-0. Totals 28-3-5-2. 2B — Gill, B. Hutton. 3B — Hochmiller.
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Turney 3-0-2-0, Cartin 3-0-2-0, Gardon 3-0-0-0, Krenz 2-0-0-0, Petersen 3-0-0-0, Wood 3-0-1-0, Draudt 3-0-0-0, Donovan 2-1-0-0, Jaros 3-0-0-0. Totals 25-1-5-0.
Valley pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — B. Hutton 7-5-1-1-2-4.
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Gardon 6-9-3-3-1-2.