TINLEY PARK – Lincoln-Way East's softball team may have earned a regular season split with Lockport, but it got clobbered in the teams' final meeting shortly before the playoffs.
So, when the two met for the rubber match in Thursday's Class 4A Andrew Sectional semifinals, the Griffins were determined to turn in a different type of performance.
They utilized the long ball in order to do just that, smashing three home runs, which resulted in seven runs to highlight an 11-hit attack.
Those homers hit by Jenny Van Geertry, Blake Ruiz and Nikole Van Gennep proved to be the difference as East grabbed the early lead and kept building on it before settling for an 11-5 victory over the Porters.
The win advances the Griffins (25-10) to their first sectional final appearance since 2009. They'll try to win their first sectional title since 2007 when they meet Joliet West in Saturday's 10 a.m. championship game.
"Once something good happens, we definitely feed off of each other," said Van Geertry, who put her team up for good with a two-run shot in the first. "And even if something bad happens, there's always someone who brings everyone up. It's a really good feeling when you have a team that supports you, and I think that's why we've been so successful."
Van Geertry went 4 for 4, scored four runs and drove in three to lead coach Elizabeth Pawlicki's squad. Beside going the distance to get the win, Van Gennep went 3 for 4 and also drove in three runs, while Ruiz collected four RBI.
Van Gennep worked out of a first-inning jam by getting a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to help her team keep the upper hand.
After Lockport (27-9-1) closed to within 2-1 in the second on a solo homer by Zara Voulgaris (2 for 3), East regained control with a four-run third, which was capped with a three-run shot down the left-field line by Ruiz.
"The last time we faced them we got slaughtered, so we came out with a lot of intensity," Ruiz said. "Once everyone starts getting their stuff together then we're all basically playing for each other, not for ourselves. It's been a long time since we've played for a sectional title, so it's cool to be a part of this."
The Porters got a run back in the third when Halle Hollatz (2 for 4) singled home Haley Arndt and then made it 6-3 an inning later when Elena Woulfe (2 for 4) tripled and then scored on an infield out by Kelly Pattison (3 for 5, two RBIs).
But the Griffins re-established control in the fifth when Van Geertry singled home Eleni Kioussis and then Van Gennep followed with a two-run blast to center.
"We're all just so pumped and ready," Van Gennep said. "Once one hitter leads it off, we're all ready and as loud as we can be. All of us are just picking each other up and doing what we do best. When it was 3 and 2, and the bases were loaded in the first, my coach told me to relax and that calmed me down. It's really exciting to be playing for a sectional title."
After Pattison doubled in a run in the sixth, East added two more runs in the seventh as Ruiz delivered an RBI single and Devon Morgan drove in its last run on a sacrifice fly.
"At this point of the year, you have to try to control the momentum and keep it on your side," Porters coach Marissa Chovanec said. "This game could have gone either way. But our kids battled all year, and I can't give enough credit to the senior leadership that we had."