CRYSTAL LAKE – Haley Tadd was looking for an outside pitch the whole time.
Harlem pitcher Olivia Fluehr had been using the outside corner against the DeKalb first baseman during her first three at-bats in a Class 4A Prairie Ridge Sectional softball semifinal.
So when Tadd came up in the bottom of the seventh inning in a tie game with runners on first and third and one out, she was looking for an outside pitch to take the other way.
Fluehr tried the outside corner once again, and Tadd got her bat on the ball and took it into right field. It dropped right in front of Huskies right fielder Sylvia Elliot, who dove and found the ball in her glove on a short hop, allowing Barbs freshman Morgan Newport to score easily and giving DeKalb a 4-3 walk-off win.
“I’ve been due for a good hit like that for a long time, so I’m just glad it came at the right time,” Tadd said. “She was going to throw me outside because I’ve been hitting a lot of foul balls, so she probably figured I couldn’t hit it. I was just watching that outside corner and took my bat to it.”
The Barbs (23-8) advance to play Warren in Saturday’s sectional final, which begins at 11 a.m. at Prairie Ridge in Crystal Lake.
Newport started the bottom of the seventh with a single, and advanced to second on a Lindsey Costliow sacrifice bunt. Sarah Friedlund reached on an error that got Newport to third before Tadd drove in the winning run.
Newport, who was tagging up on the final play, scored the game-winning run easily before getting mobbed by her teammates.
“I had so much confidence in Haley. She has had great swings lately,” Newport said. “And then I was just so excited, not overexcited, I just had to make sure I was going through everything, what I needed to do (to score).”
Newport was the winning pitcher, throwing three perfect innings after taking over for starter Katie Kowalski in the fifth. Eight of Newport’s nine outs came on ground balls, with the other being a strikeout.
Newport featured an excellent changeup throughout, often fooling Harlem (21-12) hitters.
“I really like it when it’s on, when it’s off it’s such a pain,” Newport said of her changeup. “It’s my favorite pitch.”
Kowalski, who had pitched every inning during the Barbs’ previous two postseason games, was dominant through the first three innings, striking out five.
But in the fourth, Kowalski ran into trouble, allowing three runs on two hits while walking four batters.
DeKalb tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Friedlund, who was 3 for 3 with two doubles, scored on an error and Sabrina Killeen came up with a huge two-out, two-run double that scored Jessica Townsend and Rachael Johnson.
Barbs coach Jeff Davis considered pulling Kowalski and going to Newport, who began the game in right field, in the fourth, but the junior ace got out of the inning with a strikeout, and Davis went to his freshman in the fifth.
Davis said he has two pitchers he can count on in big spots.
“As soon as we had the opportunity to get Morgan warmed up, we seized that opportunity and got her loose. She came in and she did awesome like she always does,” Davis said. “You can only ride one pitcher so long, and it’s a nice luxury to have that second girl to go to in Morgan.”