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Manteno Leegan Boudreau (4) leaves the field after making the last out against Chatham Glenwood in the Class 3A state final. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
EAST PEORIA, Ill. — The last two innings of the Class 3A state title game against Chatham Glenwood shouldn't diminish what Manteno accomplished the entire season.
The Panthers won their first sectional title and advanced Downstate for the first time in program history.
A 7-2 to loss to the Titans wasn't on their bucket list, but inspiring a small town in Illinois was no doubt accomplished by the senior battery of Brooke Stulga and Sammy Beckwith, junior shortstop Carly Trepanier and every other player on the Panthers' roster.
"We've never done any of this as a successful program," Manteno coach Josh Carlile said. "Give us some time and it won't hurt as much as it does now."
Chatham Glenwood (32-7) knew it had to be patient at the plate with Stulga (36-2), and were they ever. They continually laid off pitches out of the zone, drew important walks when needed and fought off pitches that weren't to their liking.
Lead-off walks in the first and sixth proved pivotal with both runners scoring. The Panthers (39-2) led 2-1 until the sixth when the Titans scored two runs on an RBI groundout by Abby Burton and an RBI single by Alexa Brown (2-for-3). They put the game on ice in the seventh when they plated four, two on a home run to left center field by Allison Long — her seventh of the season — for the eventual final score. Sami Long added two hits and three RBI.
"They are definitely a good-hitting team," said Stulga, a Western Illinois recruit. "But we made history and accomplished more than any other Manteno team has. But this sucks right now."
Meanwhile, after the Panthers scored two in the first on a two-run infield single by Stulga, they wouldn't get a runner past second base against pitcher Brianna Graham (20-5). Trepanier, who has been inspired by her recently passed grandfather the entire season, had two of the six Panthers' hits.
"The team chemistry is what I will never forget," said Trepanier, a junior. "We are probably the 15 most craziest girls you will ever meet. We have the best time together and that's what I'll miss the most about this team.
"My grandpa was a big motivator for me and it just taught me I can never take for granted the life that I live."
Vondel Edgars, who has coached Chatham Glenwood the last 14 seasons, won his first state title.
"You're so in to what's going on with your team to get them to be able to perform — I'm so proud of them," Edgars said. "What we accomplished was really impressive against a great softball team."