Metamora softball beats Canton, ND

Tom Batters

It was an ideal bunt situation — runners on first and second, nobody out, tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning — but, once Justine Phillips got ahead in the count, Metamora coach Deric Linder took off the bunt sign and gave his all-state senior the chance to win the game with one swing.

Phillips drilled a line drive over the right fielder’s head, and Kasey Kanaga came around to score the winning run in a 2-1 win over Canton Thursday.

Linder said it was an easy decision.

“I started off with the bunt on, but once they fell behind Justine (2-and-1 count), I felt pretty confident that she could get a hit,” Linder said. “That was a senior at-bat. She didn’t chase anything she couldn’t hit. She got her pitch and hit it hard.”

With the game tied, 1-1, sophomore Kasey Kanaga led off the bottom of the eighth with a single up the middle.

Senior Krista Polanin laid down a bunt that went past the pitcher on the third base side. Polanin beat out the throw to first.

“Another great senior at-bat,” Linder said. “That was a perfect bunt, and she hustled it out.”

Then Phillips won it with her basehit. The win improved the Redbirds’ record to 27-1 and 12-0 in the Mid-Illini Conference.

The game featured a few standout defensive plays, including a diving catch by left fielder Brittany Wernsman in the top of the fifth inning.

“That was a great play,” Linder said. “She’s had some knee problems, but she is battling through it. It was nice to see her make a play like that.”

In the fourth inning, Phillips made a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch at shortstop.

In the sixth inning, the Redbirds turned a double play when second baseman Maddie Anglin caught a line drive and threw to first baseman Paige Garber to get the runner leading off first base.

Jodi Rebholz struck out 10 batters and improved her record to 20-1. She out-dueled Canton’s Beth Wilson, who allowed two runs over eight innings.

Two aces

On Friday, Metamora beat Peoria Notre Dame, 11-2, behind a complete game victory from junior Cori Maloney.

Linder said Maloney (8-0) is more than just Metamora’s “other starting pitcher.”

“She’s been great all year. On any other team, she would be hitting and pitching every day. Since we have Jodi, she doesn’t get to play as much,” he said. “When she pitches, we have a lot of confidence in her.”

Linder said Maloney has made it possible for Rebholz to get some much-needed rest throughout the season, so that she is feeling strong heading into the postseason, which starts next week.

“We don’t need to pitch Jodi every game,” he said. “Cori is just as capable of getting a big win for us.”

Super sophs

Metamora may have the most talented trio of sophomores in the area.

Kanaga, Anglin and Molly Cull are among the conference leaders in several hitting categories.

Cull, the starting third baseman, is getting interest from Division 1 colleges including Illinois State and Texas-El Paso.

“She works awfully hard. Sometimes, you’ll see her out at the field on Sunday mornings after church, working on her hitting and fielding,” Linder said. “She’ll just keep getting even better.”

She can hit, too

Rebholz, who will pitch for Heartland Community College next year, is amassing some lofty pitching numbers, but she is also contributing with her bat.

Over the past two weeks, she has been one of the Redbirds’ most consistent hitters.

She drove in three runs in a 9-0 win over East Peoria last week.

“I love to hit,” she said. “I like to do whatever I can to help us win.”

Senior Night

Metamora plays Morton at home under the lights tomorrow night for Senior Night.

The game starts at 7 p.m. Butterfly pork chop sandwiches, hot dogs, and other concessions will be available.

Seniors Polanin, Phillips, Rebholz, Wernsman, Morgan Obery and Jami Daniel will be recognized before the game.

Metamora, the top seed in the Peoria Notre Dame Regional, plays either Woodruff or Peoria Central at 4:30 May 25 in the first round. The Regional championship game is at 11 a.m. May 29.

PND Regional games will be played at the Franciscan Recreation Center on Sterling Ave. in Peoria.