EAST PEORIA – Let’s set the scene for the perfect scenario for a freshman to step into action in her team’s biggest game of the season at the state tournament.
Here’s a few key plot points. That freshman is a pitcher. She spent most of the year on the fresh/soph level. She has a total of 5 2/3 innings in the circle on varsity.
She’s tall, probably still growing, and skinny.
In your mind, maybe it’s the last inning in a close game, and she comes in to get the last out or two to be the hero.
Here’s where the record scratches.
Cheyenne Harrington was a hero, of sorts, on Friday. But it wasn’t a classic plot line.
The Sterling Golden Warrior freshman stepped into the circle during the third inning of Friday’s 3A semifinal against Manteno with her team trailing 9-0. The Warriors would go on to lose 14-7.
Classmate Lexy Staples, who has starred on the varsity team this season and been a huge part of the Warriors’ postseason run, walked off the field with her head down – her dream had turned into a nightmare.
The Panthers had posted nine runs – including an eight-run second – off Staples in a flurry of hard hits and defensive miscues.
Harrington’s first batter – Carly Trepanier – had batted twice to that point. All she had done is crush two home runs, including a grand slam, and driven in five runs.
“I don’t know if people could tell, but I was shaking in my shoes out there,” Harrington said. “I really didn’t expect to play, and then all of a sudden, I was out there.”
The first couple pitches were up and down, but then, on the fourth one, Trepanier grounded back to Harrington. She threw to first for an out.
While an inherited runner would score on a wild pitch that inning, the Manteno bats started to look less tremendous.
Trepanier went 0-for-3 against Harrington.
“She did an amazing job,” Trepanier said. “She did a good job of keeping the ball low, and she was a little bit slower, and that threw us off.”
Four more runs would cross the plate by the time the game ended, but Harrington had clearly started to gain confidence.
“The last thing I wanted to do was come in and let my team down,” Harrington said. “I’ve done that before, and I’ve told myself that wasn’t going to happen again.
“I know a few runs came in, but I think I pitched well. I got more comfortable out there. My drop ball was really working, and they were having trouble with that.”
Sterling coach Becki Edmondson didn’t plan on throwing Harrington either.
Edmondson knows that it was just a rough outing for Staples, and most likely, Staples will come back in force in the third-place game.
Having Harrington in the wings was a bonus.
“We had Cheyenne on the sophomore team most of the year so that she would get more playing time,” Edmondson said. “She had very little varsity time, and to come in and play like that, was amazing. We are really proud of her.”
So from the ashes of a loss and the broken dreams of a state title, a taste of things to come was sipped by Warriors’ fans on Friday.
Having Staples for the next 3 years is a luxury all teams in the Sauk Valley would like to have.
If Harrington builds off Friday’s performance, it seems like Sterling will have a lethal 1-2 punch for the next few years.
So you see, while this story didn’t end with a win, there seem to be countless happy endings to come.