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An unorthodox bit of strategy turned into a winning gambit as St. Ursula claimed a 2-1 victory over Southview in the Division I district softball final at Rolf Park yesterday.
The Arrows' Tori Allen swung at a 3-0 pitch and lined it into the right-field corner for a game-winning RBI double that will send St. Ursula to the regional for the first time since 2004.
The Arrows (24-4) will play Springfield in the regional semifinal Thursday. Southview fell to 22-5.
"In that situation, you have to go after the first strike you see," Allen said of her game-winning hit. "Brooke [Southview's Gates] is a good pitcher who doesn't give you a lot of opportunities to hit a ball like that.
"It was outside, maybe a curveball. It was going away from me, but I just took it to right field."
Allen's at-bat came with the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh and Amanda McCurdy at second after a double in the right-center gap. Allen worked the count in her favor and took a swing at the 3-0 pitch, a move that didn't surprise Southview coach Ryan DeMars.
"I've seen her play in several games, and in my opinion she is their No. 1 clutch hitter," DeMars said of Allen. "They trust her, and she came through for them."
Allen, a sophomore who bats right-handed, said she was looking for a pitch away from her after singling in the fifth.
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"In my other at-bats I noticed the pitches were outside - and [the umpire] was giving it to her," Allen said. "It would hit the front corner of the plate and break outside.
"So I tried to squeeze the plate a little bit, and it paid off."
Allen's hit was the last of eight in a fine duel between Gates and St. Ursula's Alyssa Schultz.
Gates surrendered just five hits and three walks while striking out 16. St. Ursula advanced a runner to third in both the first and fourth innings but failed to score before plating an unearned run in the fifth.
"We were telling our team all day just to make contact. We didn't care what the count was," Arrows coach Frank Zalewski said. "[Gates] is a great pitcher. She may have been the best pitcher we've seen all year.
"We had several chances during the day, but we just couldn't get the big hit."
St. Ursula's fifth-inning run came with two outs as Allen singled and stole second in front of a walk drawn by Kelsey Gilroy. Lydia Loy singled to left and the runners moved up one base, but a throw from the outfield to the plate flew to the backstop, and Allen came home.
Schultz was Gates' equal in the circle, giving up just three hits and one walk while fanning 13. Southview's run came when Gates slammed a long home run over the fence in left-center.
Gates also doubled and was hit by a pitch to reach base three times, but the rest of the Cougar lineup reached base only two times.
"We just weren't as aggressive as we needed to be," DeMars said. "We just took too many pitches. And you cannot expect to beat a team with a great pitcher when you're taking pitches.
"Brooke is a special athlete, and we couldn't have asked anything more of her. She had us at the end of the game with an opportunity to win. We just weren't able to capitalize on it."
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