CARBONDALE — After dropping postseason matches to them in recent years, the Marissa-Coulterville Meteors finally got the monkey off their back by beating top-seed Goreville, 6-3, Tuesday in the semifinals of the Class 1A Goreville Softball Sectional. Because of inclement weather, the game was moved to Carbondale High School's turf field.
The Meteors improve to 15-0 on the season with the victory and advance to the sectional championship game Thursday, where they will meet the Steeleville Warriors, a 15-9 winner over Crab Orchard in the other semifinal game Tuesday. That game will be played in Steeleville. Goreville finishes its season at 17-11.
Meteors head coach Laura Robison-Kohrs said beating Goreville was "special" because of how successful the Blackcats program has been over the years, making multiple trips to the state tournament.
"This was the hump that we needed to get over," she said. "We met them (Goreville) in the sectional finals two years in a row before the pandemic hit and they knocked us out both games. We've been working and working and working for this win today. I think our defense was the key."
Robison-Kohrs added that the Meteors are a young team with only three seniors on the roster.
"I just told the girls to stay within themselves and not worry about (the umpires') calls or anything, and that's exactly what they did."
Marissa-Coulterville jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
With two outs and nobody on base, Grace Zimmer singled to left. Olivia Quigley followed suit, advancing Zimmer to second. Casey Doughtree then ripped a double into center, driving in both runners.
Goreville answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the frame.
Abby Compton tripled past a diving centerfielder Sky Richno to start things off. Kyndall Webb was hit by a pitch and then proceeded to steal second. One out later, Miley Kwiatkowski bunted to the first baseman, who turned and threw wildly past the second baseman who was covering first. The errant throw allowed the batter to reach and Compton to score. Kwiatkowski stole second, again placing runners on second and third.
Addy Harris then drove in a run on a fielder's choice grounder to tie the game and Abby King singled in a run to give the Blackcats a 3-2 lead. Goreville was unable to tack on any additional runs.
The Meteors tied the game at 3-3 in the third when Autumn Gilley singled, advanced to second on a ground out, stole third, and scored on a two-out single from the Marissa-Coulterville pitcher, Grace Middendorf.
The visitors retook the lead at 4-3 in the fourth. Quigley singled, was bunted to second by Doughtree and scored on a single that struck the top of the fence off the bat of ninth-place hitter, Madi McDougal.
The Meteors tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the seventh on the strength of a single, error and sacrifice bunt.
Meanwhile, Middendorf kept Goreville off the scoreboard the final five innings.
The junior righthander limited the Blackcats to three runs on four hits, while striking out seven. She also walked five and hit one batter.
Middendorf praised her teammates.
"They really backed me up today," she said. "Every time I came into the dugout, they were cheering me on. I couldn't have done it without their support."
Middendorf said she relied mostly on her fastball and mixed in a handful of change ups to keep the Goreville offense in check.
Pitcher of record for Goreville was Reese Ray, who surrendered six runs on eight hits. She also struck out six and walked two.
Blackcats head coach Shanna Green, while disappointed with the loss, said she was proud of her team's improvement in a short season of softball.
"It's like I told the girls in the huddle (after the game), the improvement that we made from start to finish was phenomenal. I've been fortunate to have some very talented teams the last few years, but it's not hard to coach talent. This team wasn't as talented as the ones we've had the last couple of years, but what these girls did in a short amount of time... they dug in there and fought. I'm very proud of them. We had five freshmen out on the field today. That says a lot about the future of this program."