SENECA — Perhaps Seneca hitter Nicole Pihl had the biggest hit of the afternoon on Saturday at the fourth annual Seneca softball tournament. Then again, all the girls from Mendota, the hosting Irish, Putnam County and Somonauk swung and connected for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that day.
Pihl hit a game-winning home run in the second game of the tournament for the Lady Irish to give them a berth into the title game, but it was the collective offensive attack by Mendota that ultimately led to a 7-4 win in the championship contest.
Seneca's event, Swinging for the Cure, helps to raise money for a charitable organization each year, and this year St. Jude's Hospital in Peoria was chosen.
"We chose this one because some of the girls on the team want to be nurses and some want to be teachers and social workers," Seneca coach Dan Stecken said. "This is something they will remember all of them will remember about their softball playing days. That they were helping the less fortunate."
Stecken said the collective efforts of the teams involved, along with 29 other individuals and businesses, helped contribute over $4,000 to St. Jude's.
"And that was coming in, before today," Stecken said after the tournament. "I'm looking forward to seeing what it actually turns out to be."
The tournament culminated late in the day for the Lady Irish with the loss to Mendota, a team now 8-1 on the season. A big five-run third sealed the win for the Trojans.
Up until that point, things had been going well for the Irish. In the previous game against Putnam County, they were able to avenge last week's 7-1 loss to the Panthers. With the game tied, Pihl hit a game-winning home run to give the locals a 3-1 win and a 2-0 record heading into the final game of the day. Earlier, Seneca had defeated Somonauk 9-1 to start the tournament.
"That was one of our goals coming in after the poor showing we had against them (PC) last week," Pihl said of the win over Putnam County. "They were coming here to our place and were going to get it done."
The Irish did not achieve their other on-field goal — to win the tournament.
"It's a bit of a letdown, especially after that big win," Stecken admitted. "We're disappointed not winning the championship. But Mendota is a good team and our hats go off to them."
Pihl said she also credits Seneca for the effort of the team both on and off the field.
"I give credit to everyone on the team. It was a long day and we got two wins," she said. "And we did get to raise a lot of money for St. Jude's, which was our goal. It's always good to win, but everyone involved should feel successful about what we did because we raised money for a good cause."