PEORIA — Pontiac High School pitcher Amanda Fox showed she can throw more than softballs while providing a three-run homer in the Indians’ 4-2 victory over Geneseo in the Class 3A Peoria Notre Dame Sectional final on Friday.
“I remember watching that ball come down the outside of the plate and I said, ‘Throw your bat at it. Throw your bat at it,’” said Fox of her first-inning rocket that cleared the 210-foot left field fence to erase a 1-0 deficit. “I threw it and it was gone. I didn’t realize it was gone until I tripped over first base.”
That blast at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex followed Addison Masching being hit by a pitch and Alyssa Fox’s bunt single. It helped earn Pontiac’s second sectional title in school history and first since 2005.
The Indians (31-4) advanced to Monday’s 4:30 p.m. Illinois Wesleyan Super-sectional where they will face the winner of Saturday’s battle between Ottawa (24-7-1) and Kankakee McNamara (22-8). Geneseo ended 24-11.
An Illinois State recruit, Amanda Fox later pitched three innings of relief as her team avenged a 4-1 loss from April 19.
“That’s just Amanda stepping up,” said Pontiac coach Nicole Hayner. “She’s a senior leader. She’s the only senior and she’s wanted this for four years.
“The first inning is so important for us. She knew she was going in today (in relief).”
Pontiac starter Regan Krause (16-0) worked four innings, fanning four, allowing three hits, no walks and one earned run. Fox also allowed an earned run while fanning two, walking none and allowing three hits.
“The (fifth) inning, I was not happy with how I was throwing,” Fox said. “I got back in the dugout and thought about what I was doing wrong. The (next) inning, I got a little better. The (seventh) inning I felt a lot better. The longer I go, the better I feel.”
She felt even better after Sydney Barnett singled home an insurance run in the sixth inning after Alyssa Fox got her second single.
“(Barnett) hits the ball as hard as she can,” Hayner said. “When I saw the catcher setting up outside, I knew she was going to get that hit.”
An Illinois recruit, Krause gave up a first-inning double to her pitching counterpart, Delaney Ostrowski (16-6), who scored on Bailey Mitchell’s single. Ostrowski allowed six hits and fanned five.
“I don’t like to give up the lead in the first inning, but I’m really glad Amanda came through with that big hit and Sydney in the sixth inning to give us that insurance,” Krause said. “Pitching with a two-run lead is a lot easier than pitching when you are down or have no lead at all.”
Geneseo pulled within 3-2 in the fifth inning when courtesy runner Kenadie Buysse scored from second after back-to-back groundouts by Bailey Spindel and Cora Varland. Buysse ran for Eden McAvoy, the granddaughter of baseball Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, who doubled to center.
“The only way you get timing is by swinging the bat,” said Geneseo coach Pat Mitchell. “If you stand and look at pitches, you’re not getting any timing with your swing. We came out swinging the bat.
“(Pontiac) made plays. They’ve got a decent defense that makes plays. That’s a championship type team right there. We got the momentum early, but they just grabbed it right back.”
If Ottawa joins Pontiac in the Elite Eight, it would give the Indians a chance to avenge a 4-2 loss suffered on May 10.
Krause said the keys would be “quality at bats, swinging at good pitches, swinging at pitches that we can drive and laying off the off-speed pitches and things that we can’t hit hard.”