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Years in the making, Skyla Ritter comes through as St. Charles North tops Oswego. ‘Just an incredible teammate.’

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PEORIA — In her high school softball career, senior catcher Skyla Ritter has been the consummate team player for St. Charles North, but she’s ready for more.

Two years ago, Ritter witnessed downstate heroics firsthand at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex as a sophomore backup catcher for the North Stars in their state championship run.

They’re back and so is Ritter, this time as the starter after playing behind a Division I standout.

“I told her, ‘For a couple years you’ve been one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever coached, and that includes 20 years of football and forever in basketball and softball,’” coach Tom Poulin said.

“She just deserves this after warming people up, cheering everyone else and keeping charts. She’s into the game — just an incredible teammate — and she gets it.”

Ritter stepped into one of the starring roles Friday by starting the winning rally and scoring the decisive run for St. Charles North in a dramatic 2-1 win over Oswego in a Class 4A state semifinal.

Junior right-hander Paige Murray for the North Stars and sophomore right-hander Jaelynn Anthony for the Panthers were locked in a classic pitchers’ duel through 5 1/2 scoreless innings

In the sixth, junior outfielder Mackenzie Patterson bounced an RBI single over third base for her second hit of the game and a 1-0 lead for St. Charles North (25-6), driving in Ritter’s younger sister Ginger, a sophomore shortstop who walked and took second and third on sacrifices.

Junior outfielder Natalie Muellner, though, worked the count to 3-2 with two outs in the top of the seventh before blasting a home run over the fence in center to force a 1-1 tie for Oswego (28-10).

Oswego’s Natalie Muellner (18) screams as she rounds first base after hitting a home run against St. Charles North during the Class 4A state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / The Beacon-News)

Skyla Ritter then came through for the North Stars, who play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for the big trophy against Marist (36-3). Oswego meets Mundelein (36-2) at 2 p.m. in the third-place game.

“I honestly was not worried,” Ritter said. “I knew we still had the bottom of the seventh. Our team, we never give up, no matter what happens.

“We were confident going into this game. We were nervous but it was a good nervous, using our nerves to build us up instead of making us edgy.”

Ritter led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to left field. Ritter usually has a courtesy runner and Ivy Gleeson came out to run for her but went back to the dugout because she had entered the game in the top half of the inning as a defensive replacement.

St. Charles North's Paige Murray (15) pitches in the third inning. St. Charles North defeated Oswego 2-1 in the Class 4A state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria, Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / Beacon News)
St. Charles North’s Paige Murray (15) throws a pitch in the third inning against Oswego during the Class 4A state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / The Beacon-News)

Poulin was fortunate he had not gone to the umpires to make the switch.

Junior outfielder Addy Umlauf then bunted and both runners were safe when Anthony briefly hesitated before throwing late to second base for the potential forceout.

Junior pinch-hitter Anna Lamb followed by putting down another bunt. Anthony fielded it cleanly and threw to third but the ball got away. Ritter popped right up and scored the winner.

“It looked like she was gonna be out,” Poulin said of Ritter. “It was a great play by the pitcher to go to third and get the runner and it was on time. Once it got by, I said, ‘Go.’

“I was so happy (Ritter) popped up and didn’t hesitate because it wasn’t that far away. As I’m backing up, I was thinking I should have kept her.”

St. Charles North's catcher Skyla Ritter (5), right, helps batter Mackenzie Patterson (7) left, keep her focus as Oswego's team has a long meeting at the mound. St. Charles North defeated Oswego 2-1 in the Class 4A state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria, Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / Beacon News)
St. Charles North’s Skyla Ritter, right, talks things over with Mackenzie Patterson (7) against Oswego during the Class 4A state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Rob Dicker / The Beacon-News)

Ritter was surprised to be on the bases.

“I never run because I’m pretty slow,” she said, smiling. “But I figured I had to do my part.”

Poulin couldn’t have been happier.

“She’s paid her dues and deserves it,” he said of Ritter. “What a great game. Two great pitchers, two strong lineups. This is how it should be down here, a dogfight down to the last at-bat.”

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