BLOOMINGTON — Regan Krause breezed through the first five batters in Kankakee Bishop McNamara's order Monday.
Everything seemed to be just right for Pontiac High School's softball team in the Class 3A Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional at IWU Softball Field.
But soon thereafter, Pontiac's defense sprung some leaks — and Bishop McNamara pounced on the opportunities.
The Irish hit one ball out of the infield in the second and third innings and scored five unearned runs as Pontiac committed three errors along with a passed ball. The Indians couldn't recover as Bishop McNamara cruised to an 8-0 victory.
"I don't think we ever gave up our confidence," said Pontiac's Amanda Fox. "We didn't play our 'A' game and they played the best they've played all year. Sometimes that happens and it doesn't go your way."
Pontiac ended the best season in school history with a 31-5 record. McNamara (27-8) advanced to a state semifinal game at 10 a.m. Friday against Wheaton St. Francis at EastSide Centre in East Peoria.
"They're a great team. They're quick on the bases and hard to get out," said Pontiac coach Nicole Hayner. "Whether they put the ball in play or foul it, they hit the ball hard."
The Indians finished with four errors and two passed balls. Only two of Bishop McNamara's eight runs were earned.
"We have never been pressed all season, and for us to be in that position against that great of a team — when they're as quick as they are and making diving plays on the defensive end — it's hard to come back from that," said Hayner. "We got runners on the whole game. We just didn't have that big hit we've had all season."
Krause (16-1), a junior who has committed to Illinois, gave up three hits and struck out 10 in four innings. Fox threw the final three innings as the Irish added a run in the sixth and two in the seventh.
Pontiac's best opportunity came in the bottom of the seventh.
Krause and Peyton Trost led off with singles. McNamara coach Laura Harms took out Jaelyn Vickery, who pitched 4⅔ innings of three-hit relief, and brought back starter Jocelyn Clodi.
Grace Myers hit a sharp grounder that third baseman Gillian McDermott snared near the bag. She stepped on the third and gunned down Myers at first for a double play.
One out later, McNamara was headed to the state finals.
"It's all about playing right at the right time and everyone is stepping up," said Harms. "They don't want it to be over."
Harms said facing Ottawa's Sloan Gayan, who is a Kentucky recruit, in the sectional championship game prepared McNamara for Krause.
"We talked about when the pitcher is throwing hard, you just have to shorten up and put the ball in play and understand we not going to score a ton of runs," said Harms, who directed McNamara to an undefeated season and Class 2A state title in 2013. "We have to put the ball in play and make their defense work, and that's what we did."
Vickery and Clodi held the Indians to four hits, all singles.
Fox is the Indians' lone senior and was the last player to leave the dugout. She is headed to play for Illinois State in the fall, but will be following Pontiac closely next spring.
"They'll do great things. They're only losing one person," she said with a wry smile. "I've grown up with all of them. They've been my best friends since I was little. I've played travel ball with them year-round. They're a huge part of my life."