Manteno continues miraculous run with another walkoff win

SHARE Manteno continues miraculous run with another walkoff win

If No. 1 Manteno isn’t a team of destiny, it’s hard to image the Panthers would be able to pull out one miracle after another like they have this season.

Their latest body of work came Wednesday in a Class 3A Manteno Sectional semifinal against neighborhood nemesis Peotone, the same team that beat them three times last season, including a regional win.

Pitcher Brooke Stulga personally made sure that wasn’t going to happen this year as she pitched and hit her team to a dramatic 3-1 eight-inning win.

Her one-out, two-run bomb well over the 230-foot center-field fence was the second consecutive eighth-inning walkoff home run by the Panthers. Kiley Zajdzinski did it in the regional championship against Lincoln-Way West.

The Panthers (36-1) will meet Morris on Saturday for a shot at their first sectional title.

“I don’t think I want to keep making it a habit but I don’t want to term them down,” said Manteno coach Josh Carlile of the eighth-inning home runs. “Holy cow and that was a fantastic softball game and [Peotone pitcher] Emily [Carstens] threw a fantastic softball game.”

Carstens had a no-hitter with two out in the fifth when Jackie Beck stroked a triple to right center. Carstens got the next batter to ground out to second baseman Shelby Marchionda to get out of the jam.

The Blue Devils (22-10) broke a scoreless tie in the sixth on an RBI single by Jordan Nichols scoring Carstens (1-for-2, two walks). The Panthers answered with a two-out, sharply hit single by Stulga (2-for-4, home run, 3 RBI) to force the extra inning.

Stulga (eight innings pitched, earned run, six hits, 10 strikeouts, four walks) got out of a first and second, one-out jam in the top of the eighth to set things up for her game-winning blast. On a 2-2 pitch with one out and Zajdzinksi (single) on third she hit the no-doubter.

“It always feels good to step up and help your team,” Stulga said. “I was ready for it.”

How many eighth-inning walkoff home runs does Manteno have left? “As many as we need,” Stulga joked.

Alexis Dockins and Ellie Hagemaster each had two hits for the Blue Devils. Carstens gave up three earned runs, six hits, struck out one, and walked two.

“Just the way it came off the bat I knew [it was gone],” Carstens said. “It was a fastball outside and maybe caught a little too much plate and she took it for a ride.”

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