Home International Mundelein’s Emily Courtney can cause ‘so much chaos.’ She tries to generate...

Mundelein’s Emily Courtney can cause ‘so much chaos.’ She tries to generate more in the state semifinals.

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PEORIA — Mundelein sophomore Emily Courtney is learning the value of adaptation.

Courtney, who plays shortstop for her travel team, began this season at second base and then moved to third. But she rolled with the changes after playing “here and there” for the Mustangs last year.

“I’m happy to play on varsity and will be wherever my team needs me,” she said.

Mundelein, making its first state appearance since 1996, actually needed Courtney to get on base during its Class 4A state semifinal against defending champion Marist at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Friday. She did just that, delivering one of the Mustangs’ five hits with a leadoff bunt single in the seventh inning.

“It felt good to get a hit, especially since we were down,” Courtney said. “It was a stressful game and tough environment. I just tried to take advantage and get on base.”

Courtney used her speed to force a throwing error that allowed her to take second, and she advanced to third on freshman pinch hitter Devin Hill’s sacrifice bunt. But Gianna Hillegonds retired the next two batters to seal Marist’s 7-1 win.

“She’s kind of our hard worker, a blue-collar type who puts down the bunts and sprints it out,” Mundelein coach Heather Ryan said of Courtney. “She has caused so much chaos on the bases with her bunting, and she really changes games for us.”

Sophomore center fielder Kieley Tomas and junior first baseman Claire Connelly each had two hits for talented but young Mundelein (36-2), which moved to the third-place game to play Oswego (28-10) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Mustangs made four errors amid a tough crosswind that pushed nearly every ball toward the left side.

“I think our inexperience showed, but I was so proud of our girls because the game could’ve gotten out of hand, yet they pulled it together in the last couple of innings,” Ryan said. “I think our bats were just starting to come alive. I’m proud of our resiliency, and they trusted each other.”

Mundelein third baseman Emily Courtney handles a hard ground ball during a Class 4A state semifinal against Marist at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / News-Sun)

Mundelein sophomore pitcher Shae Johnson (25-2) faced runners in scoring position in nearly every inning against the RedHawks (36-3). She allowed eight hits, walked two and struck out one in six innings.

“We already accomplished so much this season, more than we ever thought we would,” Johnson said. “We tried to go out and play with no regrets. I tried to do the best I could to keep my team in it. Their lineup was so good. It was good for me to pitch in a big game. This will prepare me for the future.”

Courtney, who is hitting .423 with 22 RBIs and 29 runs scored, is part of that future too. Freshman shortstop Taylor Pyke said she relies on Courtney, sophomore second baseman Casey Vyverman and Connelly to help her in tough games.

“You have to really talk with your teammates,” Pyke said. “So before every play, me and (Courtney) talk about who is covering third on bunts or what to do on a fly ball.”

Mundelein's Taylor Pyke (3) gets a throw from her catcher and tries to tag out a runner. Marist defeated Mundelein 7-1 in the Class 4A state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria, Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / Daily Southtown)).
Mundelein shortstop Taylor Pyke looks to tag a Marist runner during a Class 4A state semifinal at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / News-Sun)

Not that it was easy to figure out what to do once the ball was hit in the air on Friday.

“It was very difficult because all the fly balls were moving everywhere,” Courtney said. “I had to adjust because you never knew what was going to come your way.”

Courtney, who also plays volleyball, knows this season has gone the Mustangs’ way most of the time.

“To be here is really amazing, and everyone has stuck together on the team to help us get here,” she said. “This year has been a dream come true.”

Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter.

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