PERU — Lainie Schweickert typically doesn’t need much run support, sporting a 0.52 season’s ERA. Mo Dean and Emily Christensen gave the Lady Bruins ace all she would need with two swings of the bat in Saturday’s regional championship game at St. Bede.
Dean cracked a solo shot to give the Lady Bruins a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning. Christensen added a grand slam home run in the sixth inning to extend the lead to 9-2, one that Schweickert took home to the bank for the regional championship.
“I told Lainie they walked you to get to Emmi and she just smiled. It’s nice to have those two really hitting the ball,” SBA coach Bill Prokup said.
Schweickert said Dean’s homer “got us pumped up,” and Christensen’s grand slam was “awesome.”
The Lady Bruins (21-5) will advance to take on Rock Island Alleman. The Pioneers (21-7) were 7-0 winners over Morrison at the Bureau Valley Regional.
Dean’s homer may have been the pivotal blow, a blast that sent the center field fans scrambling to protect their cars parked behind the fence.
“It was 3-2, a close game. That was the big hit,” Prokup said. “I told her, we need senior leaders, and Mo stepped up today. She’s got a nice easy swing, been working a little harder in the cage and that was a rocket. Mo last couple of games has really started to stoke the ball.”
Then in the sixth, Christensen put the game away. Christine Daley led off with a single and scored on Lydia Stariha’s double. Barbi Prokup reached on a bunt hit and Schweickert walked to load the bases. Christensen then deposited her grand slam just over the right-center field fence to whip the St. Bede faithful into a frenzy with a 9-2 lead.
A fan delivered the grand slam ball to Christensen and told her I knew she could do it. Christensen said the ball would probably “case it and put it my room.”
“Emmi said to me before hand, ‘I like runners on third base,’ and she just smiled at me,” Prokup said. “It wasn’t too far, what two feet over the fence? A sky rocket. She knew she had a lot of confidence in herself. She’s was one of our better hitters and she showed what she can do today.”
“I just wanted to do it for my team,” Christensen said.
Stariha and Dean led the Lady Bruins with three hits each. Christensen added two hits and five RBIs.
Mendota coach Joel Perez threw a change-up at St. Bede, sending Michaela Delong to the circle instead of ace Ashlyn Kennedy. Stariha led off with a base hit and Prokup reached on a fielder’s choice when Stariha beat the throw to second. After one out, Christensen singled in Stariha for a 1-0 lead and Perez made the change to Kennedy. Dean greeted Kennedy with a RBI hit to make it 2-0.
Schweickert finished with 12 strikeouts, retiring six straight to end the game and 13 out of the last 15 batters she faced. She said all her pitches were working pretty well, though “I didn’t throw very many curveballs.”
Next up will be Alleman, a program that has won five state championships, the last in 1998, and qualified for State 18 times, including a 2005 trip.
“I’ve heard they’re a pretty good team. Anybody coming out of the Quad Cities is good. I’m sure they play a lot of ASA,” Prokup said. “It’s going to come down to pitching and hitting and defense. I think we got the pitcher to go up against whoever they pitch. We’re hitting the ball pretty well so we’ll see what happens. Hey, we’re not going over there to lose, trust me.”