WOODSTOCK - Nine Woodstock North batters settled in at the plate against Marengo freshman pitcher Mariah Dionne during the first three innings Wednesday.
All nine batters were forced to walk back to the dugout after Dionne struck out each of them. Dionne's nine consecutive strikeouts to start the Class 3A Woodstock North regional semifinal game against the Thunder were the beginnings of a dominant performance.
Dionne threw a no hitter and struck out 15 hitters to lead the Indians to a 4-0 win. Marengo advances to Saturday's 11 a.m. regional final against Richmond-Burton, which beat Marian Central 12-10 in the second semifinal game on Wednesday.
Only one Woodstock North batter reached with Dionne (19-4) in the circle on a two-out walk in the fifth. The Thunder struggled to connect against Dionne's fastballs which top out at 61 mph.
"I feel like I came in loose, strong, and I came in determined," Dionne said. "My pitches were moving very well. My catcher [Taylor Carlson] was framing them very well, and the umpire had a big plate so I was using it to my advantage."
Dionne knew she had a perfect game - and then a no hitter when the Thunder's Caitlin Wirfs walked - but it didn't faze her. Marengo's offense provided enough support to back Dionne.
Marengo (26-10) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning thanks to an error by Woodstock North (6-23) on a routine throw from the catcher back to pitcher Dakota Butler that tipped off her glove towards second base allowing Gabbi Markison to score.
The Indians scored three more runs in the third with the first three batters reaching to start the inning. Carlson's sacrifice fly put Marengo ahead 2-0 and another run scored when the throw from center field got away from the catcher. Markison also hit a sacrifice fly to cap the Indians' scoring.
"I think [Marengo] was expecting to go home in five innings, and that didn't happen," Thunder coach Pete Riis said. "So for us, you could call that a minor victory. But we hung right in there with them, if only we could get some hits."
Richmond-Burton 12, Marian Central 10: R-B kept watching Marian chip away at its leads.
Yet as the Hurricanes loaded the bases in the seventh inning with nobody out and trailing by four runs, the Rockets kept their composure. Although Marian plated two runs and brought the game-winning run to the plate, R-B pitcher Andrea Modlin (11-4) got two pop ups for the final two outs of the seventh to strand runners on the corners and give the Rockets the 12-10 regional semifinal win.
"The girls knew it was either now or never," R-B coach Stephanie Rasmusen said. "They were bound and determined to get to this field on Saturday against Marengo and hopefully bring in a win. We've been in that jam before, and they just buckled down and wanted it."
R-B (18-11) took a 4-0 lead in the second led by Taylor Mell's three-run homer. But Marian (17-12) scored two runs in the third and fourth innings to tie the game. Another offensive outburst in the fifth led to five more runs and a 9-4 lead for R-B. The Hurricanes again scored two runs in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, however it wasn't enough.
Stephanie Pedley, Grace Schwegel and Sam Dahlen each drove in two runs for R-B. Mic Faunce went 4 for 5 with an RBI to lead a Marian team that started six freshmen and returns the entire team next season.
"I'm very proud of them," Marian coach Erin Widmayer said. "I'm proud we didn't give up. All I asked that last inning was to get based hits, and we did that. ... I'm looking to next year, not only regionals but beyond."