ATHENS, Ill. – For the second year straight, the Carrollton Hawks met the Illini Bluffs Tigers in a softball super-sectional.

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The teams met Monday afternoon and the result was similar to last year.

Illini Bluffs went on to win by a score of 2-1, earning a spot in the state tournament for the fifth time in six years. The Tigers won back-to-back state titles in 2021 and 2022. Last season they took second.

According to Max Preps, the Tigers were ranked No. 1 in class 1A, while the Hawks were No. 2.

Carrollton head coach Travis Klingler thought his team did all the right things leading up to this game.

“I thought we were moving in the right direction and had done everything in the offseason we needed to,” he said. “We didn’t hit enough today or get the timely hits when we needed to.”

Carrollton was the home team in Athens and Lauren Flowers led off the game in the circle. She went three-up, three-down to open the game. As did Tigers’ pitcher Cora Ellison.

It was a pitching rematch from last year’s super-sectional, a game that Illini Bluffs won 3-2.

After four scoreless innings from Flowers, her team grabbed the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Vanna Holmes hit a solo home run to center field that brought life to the Carrollton dugout.

“When she hit the home run, I thought for sure, there we go,” Klingler said.

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Chloe Eeten tied the game up with a two-out RBI single in the fifth, scoring Sara Finn who had reached via a single. It tied the game up at 1-1.

Flowers kept moving through the sixth before Hannah Uhles replaced her in the seventh.

Things went south quickly when Finn took the batter’s box and hit a solo home run to give her team the 2-1 lead in the seventh.

She did the same in last year’s super-sectional, giving her team the go-ahead run.

Megan Camden took a leadoff walk and was batted around to third in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and the game on the line, Courtney Waldheuser struck out to end the game.

Flowers struck out seven batters while giving up seven hits and one earned run.

“Lauren really wanted it,” Klingler said. “She wanted a little revenge. I thought she did a great job. I thought she started to get really tired there in the fifth inning and that’s why we decided to make the change.”

“We made that change, and it didn’t quite work out,” Klingler said.

The Hawks’ season comes to a close at 34-3 while the Tigers (24-1) advance to the state semifinals against Campbell Hill Trico (23-5).

A Carrollton team that only graduates on senior is hopeful to make another deep postseason run next year.

“Yeah, I hope so,” Klingler said. “Nothing’s guaranteed. I told the girls to soak up the moment because this might not happen again, so to enjoy it.”

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