Tigers use walk-off home run leading off seventh to end Wolves’ season


Pleasant Hill pitcher McKinley Lowe struck out 10 in the Class 1A sectional semifinal loss to Illini Bluffs on Wednesday in Havana, Ill. | Matt Schuckman file photo

HAVANA, Ill. — One pitch, one swing, one sudden ending.

Illini Bluffs catcher Lexi Brinkman jumped on the first pitch from Pleasant Hill’s McKinley Lowe in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday and smacked a walk-off home run to center field for a 4-3 victory in the semifinals of the Class 1A Havana softball sectional.

Illini Bluffs advances to face Havana in Friday’s sectional championship.

Pleasant Hill ends its season at 26-8 after winning the second regional title in program history.

The Wolves built a 3-0 lead by scoring once in the second inning and twice in the fourth. Kali VanStrien led off the second inning with a home run to center field. In the fourth, Hannah Hill led off with a double, and one out later, VanStrien was hit by a pitch. Makenna Winchell followed with a two-run double to right field to plate one run.

Lowe’s single to left field plated the other. A flyout and a strikeout ended the inning without the Wolves inflicting further damage.

A two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth enabled Illini Bluffs to tie the game. After back-to-back doubles plated one run, Brinkman hit a two-run home run to center field to make it 3-3.

Pleasant Hill had runners on in each of the final three innings without scoring. Lowe worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth and retired five straight batters heading into the seventh inning.

Lowe struck out 10, walked one and allowed four runs on four hits. Winchell and Emma Henderson each had two hits for the Wolves.

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