NORMAL — It took nearly three extra hours and a change of venue to bring about the start of Friday's rain-delayed University High Class 3A softball regional championship game.
The finish wasn't all that swift, either.
Protecting a two-run lead and seeking to cap off a two-hitter, Pontiac High School senior left-hander Amanda Fox loaded the bases with three walks in the seventh inning.
The drama delayed the Indians' celebration, but it came nonetheless when Fox got the final out on a foul popup for a 3-1 victory over University High at Maxwell Park.
Fox, who will pitch at Illinois State, frequently splits up games with junior Regan Krause, an Illinois recruit. Fox went the distance Friday, striking out 12 and walking four after the game was moved from a 4:30 p.m. start at Illinois Wesleyan to 7 p.m. at Maxwell Park.
"It's been a while since I've thrown a whole seven innings. I struggled a little bit getting through that, but I needed to settle down and realize my defense had my back," Fox said. "I knew they could hit a ball in play and I'd be fine."
U High leadoff hitter Abby Knight had the only two hits off Fox, a bunt single in the fourth and a two-out triple in the sixth. Knight later scored on a double steal to make it 2-1, but Pontiac sophomore Alyssa Fox, Amanda's cousin, drilled a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth.
"We were only up by one at that point. It got the momentum going back to us," Amanda Fox said.
Elena Rolley walked to start the seventh for U High. With two outs, Addie Steward and Danielle Robert also drew walks before Fox (14-4) nailed down the victory.
Pontiac (29-4) advanced to the Peoria Notre Dame Sectional on Tuesday, while U High ended its season 28-7.
"One thing we've talked about is walking the walk and not talking the talk," Pontiac coach Nicole Hayner said. "For them to come through and finish it tonight like they did, that's great.
"For being a senior and growing as much as she (Amanda Fox) has mentally and physically, the mental toughness she has is great. It shows it in this game."
Fox struck out the side in the top of the first and top-seeded Pontiac struck for two runs in the bottom of the inning against U High junior Maddie Roop (11-5).
Addison Masching led off with a double and went to third on a one-out single by Amanda Fox. Sydney Barnett then sent a drive to right-center that tipped off the outstretched glove of the U High right fielder for a double, driving in two runs.
"That was huge," Hayner said of the early lead. "It was the difference in the game and it set the tone for Amanda. She pitched well and set the tone for everybody behind her."
Fox was perfect through three innings and piled up nine of her 12 strikeouts in the first five innings.
"My screwball, my changeup and my rise ball ... they were chasing those and I used them to my advantage," she said.
U High's Jen Kuhn relieved Roop in the third and allowed two hits and one run, striking out six, in the final four innings.
"We were right there. The girls battled all the way to the very end so I'm real proud of them," U High coach Al Toliver said. "I think she (Fox) was hitting her spots very, very well. She opened the door for us there a little bit, but she closed the door, too.
"Her 'up' pitch was working very well. We had a lot of swings and misses and that's kind of her game."