ATHENS — Deficits haven't bothered the Macomb softball team at all.
For the third game in a row, the Bombers bounced back from an early hole to beat Buffalo Tri-City 6-2 in the Class 2A Athens Sectional championship game on Friday to win their first sectional title since 1999.
"They're all very good with pressure," Macomb coach Shawna Robinson said. "I keep saying this, but we play a lot of softball outside of school ball. And they've just been in a lot of pressure games.
"They just know how to handle the pressure, and I'm very proud of them."
Macomb will face Tolono Unity in the Decatur Supersectional at 11 a.m. Monday. The game will be played at Millikin University.
"I know we want to go to state so bad, get some trophies," Macomb's Ellie Duncan said. "Hopefully we play well."
On Friday, Macomb pitcher Kaitlyn Robinson gave up a two-run home run to Tri-City's Grace Blair in the bottom of the third inning. She didn't allow any of the next five Tornadoes to reach past first base the rest of the game.
"I feel really good," Robinson said of her performance, "and my defense looked really well."
Robinson finished with four strikeouts against five hits, two runs and four walks in the complete-game win.
"We did not hit the ball the way we're capable of hitting," Tri-City coach Brad Sturdy said. "We talked all week, what (Robinson) does is she not going to overpower you but she throws it just out of the zone — a lot — and (makes batters) chase and you have to be disciplined."
Second-seeded Macomb (21-6) quickly answered No. 2 Tri-City in the top of the fourth. Hannah Higgins led off the Bombers' half with a single and Duncan smacked an RBI double up the middle to pull Macomb within 2-1.
The Bombers were able to quickly come back to the plate after a quick three-batter inning in the bottom of the fourth. Allison Stortzum singled to lead off the top of the fifth and Natalie Nicholson laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt but an errant throw from third went to right field and Stortzum scored and Nicholson went to third.
Two batters later, Nicholson scored the go-ahead run on Ainsley Holthaus' ground out for a 3-2 lead.
"We just know that our offense can pick us up and we just chip, chip through the whole game," Holthaus said.
Macomb padded its lead in the top of the sixth. The Bombers put runners at the corners following a leadoff double by Shelby Daniels and Duncan reached on an error. Macomb took a 4-2 lead on Tri-City's second error of the inning.
In the seventh, Macomb got insurance runs when Holthaus' double down the line in left field scored Sarah Stufflebeam ahead of Higgins' RBI double down the right-field line to plate Holthaus.
"I know we were a lot more settled down once we got more runs on the board but Tri-City's a great team," Duncan said. "We knew we needed to get more runs on the board to be able to shut them out for sure."
Macomb had seven doubles in its 10-6, comeback win over Williamsville on Tuesday. On Friday, the Bombers had four more two-baggers. Higgins was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI while Holthaus doubled and drove in a pair of runs.
Tri-City made an uncharacteristic three errors.
"Defensively, they made all the plays," Sturdy said of Macomb. "They made every play they had to make. No matter what it was — whether it was a fly ball or a ground ball, they made the plays and they didn't throw it around. We did throw it around and that's the difference in the game."
Macomb scored three unearned runs.
"I think defense is a big part of it," Sturdy said. "Usually, we're good defensively. We field at a .970 clip coming into this and that's one of our calling cards. It just didn't work out today."
Last week, Macomb beat Canton 5-4 in the Canton Regional championship game. The Bombers trailed 4-3 after Canton had a two-run third inning before they scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-4 tie. Duncan had the walk-off hit in the bottom of the first extra inning.
"I know going into the season, we knew we had a lot of potential," Duncan said. "Our seniors really wanted it this year.
"We really wanted it and we were able to step up during postseason and everyone was able to contribute to get us this win."
Ryan Mahan is a sports writer for The State Journal-Register in Springfield: Contact him: 217-788-1546, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.
This article originally appeared on The McDonough County Voice: IHSA softball: Macomb beats Tri-City ti win sectional title