Sophomore Kaitlyn Filkins has delivered several key hits for the Lyons Township High School softball team from the No. 9 spot in the batting order, including a regular-season home run against rival Downers Grove North.
When the West Suburban Conference Silver Division co-champs met in the IHSA Class 4A Marist Sectional semifinal June 1, Filkins struck again with one of the Lions’ biggest hits this season.
Filkins’ home run in the bottom of the fifth inning gave the Lions the lead for good in a 4-3 victory to advance to sectional championship against defending state champion Marist on June 3.
“This one felt really special. It was really meaningful,” Filkins said. “I think that in this win we all played very good. We all had something to contribute to this one.”
The Lions (21-3) added a big insurance run in the sixth on a ground out by junior Makenna Kotor for a 4-2 lead before the Trojans rallied with back-to-back singles to open the seventh.
Senior winning pitcher Lily Hanafin then recorded her 14th strikeout before the lead runner scored on an infield ground out to senior first baseman Anna Bryant.
With the tying run on third, another ground out to Bryant ended the game.
“[The seventh inning] was a little stressful but I think you just have to focus on that one pitch at a time,” Hanafin said. “You can’t let anything else get in your head. You just have to focus on the batter.”
The Lions and Trojans were WSC Silver co-champs at 10-2, the Lions’ first conference title since 1990. LTHS won the first meeting 5-3, which included Filkins’ home run, and the Trojans won the second 7-1.
All of the LTHS runs on June 1 came from the bottom four spots of the batting order. Filkins’ homer followed being called out on strikes her first at-bat.
“[The homer] kind of felt like redemption,” Filkins said. “That homer was big for the game and it just felt really good. Striking out at first I was really upset and I wanted to at least get a hit and make contact, get on base.”
No. 6 batter Hanafin hit her first homer this season, a two-run blast in the second, after sophomore Peyton O’Flaherty walked for a 2-0 lead.
Hanafin also was coming off a career-best 17 strikeouts in the regional final.
“I don’t think I’ve elevated my game [for the playoffs]. I think I’ve just really stayed with what I’ve been doing all year round and kind of my entire pitching career,” Hanafin said.
Hanafin retired the Trojans in order over the first three innings with seven strikeouts but in the fourth they used three singles and a runner reaching on a dropped third strike to tie the game 2-2.
Bryant, back in the lineup after a basketball knee injury, walked to open the sixth. Lillian Prendergast entered as a pinch-runner.
O’Flaherty’s well-placed bunt turned into a hit. The runners advanced on Hanafin’s ground out and Prendergast scored on Kotor’s grounder to second base.
“The main goal was just try to get a hit, try to get a run in,” Kotor said. “A lot of nervous energy in the dugout and then when I saw the score, it was just really exciting to just see that run come through.”