CARTERVILLE — As Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who’s no longer of this earth, once uttered, “You can’t run out the clock in this game.”
Murphysboro’s softball team found out the hard way Thursday in its Class 2A regional semifinal with Du Quoin.
Four outs from a win that would have enabled them to host the regional final on Friday, the Red Devils got them. But not until after the Indians scored three two-out runs in the sixth and seven more runs in the seventh to turn an almost certain defeat into a 10-5 win.
The result allowed seventh-seeded Du Quoin (10-17) to advance to Friday’s 4 p.m. title game against third-seeded Carterville. The Lions didn’t mess around against sixth-seeded Waltonville-Sesser-Valier in the second semifinal, rolling up an 11-0 second inning lead on the way to a 15-1, 4 ½-inning triumph.
Carterville’s expected rematch with Murphysboro (13-8) isn’t happening. That’s because the Indians authored a surprising turnaround in a game owned for five-plus innings by the region’s top seed.
“Just the way everyone had it, right?,” joked Du Quoin coach Jason James.
It wasn’t that the Indians were being overpowered by Red Devils ace Shelby Harrison, although she did enjoy an immaculate inning, fanning the side in the second on nine pitches. For 5 2/3 innings, Harrison controlled the game without dominating it, scattering five hits and inducing eight first or second-pitch outs.
With runners at first and second and no outs in the sixth, Harrison fetched consecutive pop-ups from Lauren Heape and Ella Davis. Ella Hirsch, who’d fanned twice, was the only obstacle between Harrison and the seventh inning.
Only Hirsch didn’t cooperate, lining an RBI single up the middle. Carly Strauss followed with a run-scoring hit to left, accompanied by a throwing error that chased Hirsch around from first.
A four-run game was now a one-run game. The Du Quoin dugout welcomed old momentum to their bench.
“I just felt like if we could get that one inning, we could get going,” James said.
Strauss, who kept damage minimized enough during the first five innings to keep the Indians in striking distance, stranded a runner at third in the sixth. Murphysboro’s one-run lead looked and felt more like a deficit when considering that Du Quoin had the top of its order coming up in the seventh.
It didn’t take long for the Indians to finish the rally with gusto. A bases-loaded error tied the score and Heape’s infield out put Du Quoin ahead for good. Strauss stroked a two-out, two-run single to left for a 7-4 lead.
Madison Lee capped the seventh inning outburst with her second hit of the inning, a run-producing single to right-center. Lee and Abbi Mocaby each had two hits in the inning.
“With Maddie and Abbi up, I felt like we were going to get at least one run,” James said. “But I felt like we needed three or four runs to win. Then we got rolling a bit and it seemed like hitting was contagious.”
Minutes after watching the Indians complete their stunning comeback, Carterville coach Will Capie addressed it with his team.
“Our girls expected to play Murphysboro,” he said. “I used the result to show that any team can beat you if you’re not ready to play.”
The Lions listened. They scored three runs in the first and eight more in the second. There were eight hits in those innings to go along with three errors, four stolen bases and a whole lot of little things that teams do when they are dialed in and engaged.
“This team takes pride in things like baserunning and extended at-bats,” Capie said. “Those things can separate good teams from championship teams.”
Freshman third baseman Amayah Doyle polished off the Carterville outburst with a three-run homer over the left field fence in the fourth. Doyle went 3-for-4 with five RBI as the Lions finished with 11 hits.
In the circle, freshman lefthander Lacie Carr permitted just three hits in a route-going performance, whiffing seven.