Rebels await showdown against South Range
GREENFORD–With each team getting established in different leagues, old Inter-Tri County League rivals Crestview and South Range did not face off for the first time in several years this regular season.
Instead, they’ll get their shot at each other Thursday with a district title on the line.
Behind a shutdown performance from freshman pitcher Kaedyn Sutton, some timely hitting and airtight defense, the third-seeded Rebels took care of business on their end with a decisive 6-0 victory over second-seeded Waterloo in a Division III district semifinal Tuesday at South Range High School.
The Rebels (22-5) will be back at South Range at 5 p.m. Thursday to square off against the top-seeded Raiders in the district championship game.
For the four Crestview seniors who have never beaten South Range, Thursday’s game represents one final chance.
“They are such a good team top-to-bottom,” Crestview senior Olivia Strank said. “But if we play our game and perform like we did today then it will be a good one. We’re really excited for the opportunity.”
The freshman Sutton settled in quickly in the circle and never let the Vikings (16-6) have any momentum. She struck out nine and allowed only a pair of singles.
“My screwball and riseball were both working really well tonight,” Sutton said. “I had a lot of nerves at the beginning, but I knew everyone had my back behind me and I had a lot of confidence in our offense to come through.”
The Rebels have asked a lot of Sutton since day one and she has responded. Tuesday’s win was her school-record 16th of the season, breaking the old mark set by Shannon Simmons in 1998 and Jessica Sferra in 2004.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Kaedyn,” Strank said. “When she’s throwing her A-game like tonight, we know good things are going to happen.”
“Kaedyn threw one heck of a game,” Eskra said. “For a freshman, she has stepped up huge for us. She was hitting her spots all night and she kept them off balance We couldn’t ask for anything more than what she gave us.”
Strank got the Crestview offense rolling right away in the first when he hustled out an infield single and eventually sped home on a passed ball to give Sutton the only run she needed.
In the second, Strank gave the Rebels cushion when she lined a clutch two-out, two-run single to right, making it 3-0 and setting the tone for the evening.
“Coach (Melvin) Miller walked up to me before the at-bat and said ‘It’s your time,'” Strank said. “Right when it came off the bat, I knew it was a solid hit. It’s a great feeling to come through for the team in a key situation like that. It was nice to have that little but of leeway.”
The Rebels added on incrementally from there. Baylie Bettura slammed an RBI double in the third and had an RBI single in the seventh. Taylor Mellington (who finished 2-for-4) doubled in the sixth and came home on a bunt by Ashton Hughes. Karsyn Moore added a solid game with a double and a single.
“Every girl one-through-15 contributed in some way for us. They came out loose and ready to play tonight,” Eskra said. “These girls have never been in this position before and they’re definitely going to be excited. South Range is a great team, but I think we’re going to be up to the task. It should be a great game.”
¯ The Crestview defense also turned in a superb effort. Diving catches by Strank at second and Haley Eskra at short highlighted the errorless night.
“If we’re in a close game or have a lead, our defense is unbelievable,” Greg Eskra said. “I’ll put them up against any team around, they’ve come through for us all year.”
¯ The one Waterloo hitter that the Rebels weren’t going to let beat them was catcher Amber Cieplinski, an Eastern Illinois recruit who came into the game with double digit home run totals.
Cieplinski accounted for Sutton’s only three walks of the night. The only time she made it into scoring position was the fourth inning before Karsyn Moore gunned her down at third on a steal attempt.
“Our approach was totally out of respect to her,” Eskra said. “I don’t know much about her besides the scouting reports we’ve got, but she’s an unbelievable player. We were not going to let her beat us.”
C–Kaedyn Sutton, wp, (7IP, 9K, 3BB) and Karsyn Moore.
W–Mackenzie Kehrer, lp, (7IP, 3K, 1BB) and Amber Cieplinski.