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  • The State Journal-Register

    Auburn's Taylor lets bat, as well as her arm, do the talking for Trojans' first sectional title

    By Ryan Mahan, Springfield State Journal- Register,

    23 days ago
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4Vzv9f_0tObmYaB00

    WILLIAMSVILLE — Meena Taylor did everything she could for the Auburn softball team with her pitching arm. It was time for her bat to do some damage.

    With one on and one out in the top of the ninth inning, the junior hammered the first pitch of her at-bat over the fence in right field to give the Trojans a two-run lead. In the bottom of the same inning, with the tying run at third and the winning run at first base, Taylor polished off the Class 2A Williamsville Sectional championship win by striking out Stanford Olympia's Emma Books.

    Cue the celebrations for Auburn's first sectional title in program history.

    "It's a team game, and I just knew I had to do a job for my team," Taylor said. "I came up with one out, had a runner in scoring position, and I just had to get her in. I thought it had a good shot (of going out), but I wasn't sure."

    Auburn (26-7-1) will face Effingham St. Anthony in the Class 2A Decatur Supersectional on Monday at Millikin University's Workman Family Softball Field. The game, which will determine one of the four state tournament semifinals, begins at 11 a.m.

    The win avenged a pair of recent losses by Auburn to Stanford Olympia (29-2-1). On May 6, the Spartans pulled out a 3-2 Sangamo Conference win in Auburn with one run in the top of the seventh after the Trojans scored twice in the sixth to tie the game.

    "They're a fantastic team, and we knew it was going to be a battle either way, and I guess the third time's a charm," Auburn coach Ryan Patterson said. "We're real fortunate we pulled it out, and we're pretty happy."

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    Taylor also vividly remembered Auburn's 2-0 loss to Olympia the season before.

    "We knew coming in it's really hard to beat a team three times," Taylor said. "We wanted it so bad."

    With one out in a tie game, Taylor Patterson reached on a throwing error by the Olympia shortstop. It was one of five Spartans errors. One pitch later, and Taylor had the biggest hit of the game. She was 2-for-5, which included an RBI double in the fifth to tie the game 2-2. Taylor finished with three RBIs.

    She didn't get a water cooler thrown over her head, but Taylor probably could've used the instant cooldown. She was dominant in the circle as well with 16 strikeouts in her complete-game win, including two in the eighth and the final out of the game. She allowed three runs on seven hits and just one walk.

    "It feels awesome knowing I can provide for my team and do everything I can for them," Taylor said.

    Shelby Finchum led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to left. A sacrifice bunt moved Finchum to second before Gabby Frye singled up the middle to score Finchum. With two outs, Auburn had its first error of the game to put Spartans at first and third. With the tying run precariously close, Taylor put a 2-2 pitch past the swinging bat of Books.

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    In the top of the fourth, Piper Taylor drew a leadoff walk, and Mailee Schoen singled to center to give the Trojans runners at the corners. With one out, Skylar Meats hit a hard grounder to Finchum at third as Taylor sprinted home. Finchum gathered the ball and threw home, but it went wide, allowing Taylor to score.

    Auburn had a lot of hard outs with hits right at Olympia fielders. Olympia's Jordyn Turner in center field made a couple of run-saving plays.

    "It seemed like we were one hit short of busting through and getting two or three (runs)," Patterson said. "Fortunately, the girls stayed the course. We had runners all over the bases the entire game. Better late than never, but we finally got the big one."

    St. Anthony (29-3) beat Normal U-High 1-0 to win the 2A Monticello Sectional on Saturday. If Auburn is new to the supersectionals, the Bulldogs sure aren't. St. Anthony is trying to get back to the state tournament for the third time in four seasons. The Bulldogs brought home a 2A third-place trophy last year and were the Class 1A runner-up finishers in 2021.

    Contact Ryan Mahan: 788-1546, ryan.mahan@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.

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