District 17 all-stars on verge of World Series crown after pair of shutouts leads to title-game berth


Quincy Notre Dame's Caitlin Bunte delivers a pitch during action at the Senior League World Series in Roxana, Del. | Photo courtesy Tina Bunte

ROXANA, Del. — One more to glory.

The Illinois District 17 softball team, composed of players throughout West-Central and Central Illinois, is one victory away from a Senior League World Series championship.

A fitting winner-take-all finale will decide it.

The Land of Lincolners will face the Southwest Region champions from Texas at 6 p.m. Sunday at Ebbets Field in the championship. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Plus.

Both teams went undefeated in pool play and were the respective No. 1 seeds on opposite sides of the single-elimination bracket.

The difference? Illinois jackhammered a pair of opponents Saturday to reach the championship, while Texas had to outlast Canada 2-1 in the semifinal. Illinois beat Canada 3-2 during pool play.

Illinois did what it has the entire tournament to win its first two bracket games — it hit.

In the quarterfinals, Illinois scored 16 runs in the first inning against the team from Puerto Rico and settled for a 16-0, four-inning victory. Illini Bluffs’ Cora Ellison went 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs, while Pleasant Hill’s Ava Wombles went 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs.

Quincy Notre Dame’s Caitlin Bunte and Springfield’s Mia Volpert each threw two scoreless innings in the pitcher’s circle.

In the semifinals, Illinois scored once in the top of the first and at least one run in five of the first six innings to dispatch Hawaii 9-0. The Land of Lincolners beat Hawaii 8-4 in the opening game of pool play.

Wombles led off the game with a single, went to second when Rushville’s Italee Ford was hit by a pitch and scored on Bunte’s single. Volpert hit a three-run home run in the third, while Wombles had an RBI double as part of a three-run fourth.

Wombles added an RBI single in the fifth, and Macomb’s Kylie Robinson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the sixth to force in the final run.

Bunte finished 4 for 4, while Wombles went 3 for 5 with two runs scored.

Volpert earned the victory in the circle, striking out four, walking none and allowing no hits over four innings. Calhoun’s Audrey Gilman struck out four over the final three innings, while allowing one hit and two walks.

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