Saturday's extreme heat forced home-plate umpire Mike Kruschwitz to retire early from the Class 3A Grayslake Central softball sectional final.
Kruschwitz cooled off in Grayslake North's dugout for 15 minutes, before being escorted off the field on a golf cart. Kruschwitz waved to Marengo's team in the opposite dugout as he left. Fans, believe it or not, clapped for an ump.
The sun wasn't the only thing that brought late-morning intensity.
Marengo's small ball worked to perfection almost immediately after Grayslake North pitcher Kristi Gandy fired the first pitch at 11 a.m. to leadoff-batter Lauren Roudabush. Roudabush ignited a 2-run top of the first, the Indians added four more in the second and cruised, winning 7-0.
Lefty Chloe Montgomery pitched a 2-hitter, as Marengo (30-9) advanced to Monday's 4 p.m. Northern Illinois University supersectional against Sycamore in DeKalb.
"They execute very well," Gandy said of the Indians. "I think if they keep that up, they'll do very well. They're a good little team."
So, too, was Grayslake North.
The Knights (22-11) completed the best season in the program's five-year history, winning three more games than they did last year when they set the school record for victories.
"It was a great season," said sophomore third baseman Kelsey Borders, who had one of the Knights' hits. "I don't think anyone thought we were going to get this far."
Roudabush's first-inning bunt didn't roll far. Gandy scooped up the ball and fired it off-target to first, down the right-field line. Roudabash raced to third on the rare throwing error by Gandy and scored two batters later on Stephanie Cartwright's squeeze bunt.
After Montgomery singled into left field, Abby Kissack slapped an infield single to load the bases. Larissa Pfeiffer's RBI fielder's choice scored Cartwright.
"Our coach (Dwain Nance) always tells us to put the pressure on right away and keep the intensity throughout the entire game," said Cartwright, who finished 3-for-4 with a double. "He says if we get up at the beginning of the game, we have to keep pushing."
Roudabush (3-for-4) stroked an RBI single to score Taylor Carlson, who had led off the second by reaching on an error. After a sacrifice fly by Reed Karsten, Cartwright bunted down the third-base line. Third-baseman Borders, like Gandy an inning earlier, then made a rare throwing error.
Her throw to first sailed into the right-field corner. As the ball rattled around, Cartwright sped all the way home, Roudabush scoring ahead of her.
"I think I just rushed my throw," Borders said.
Up 6-0 after two, Marengo added another run in the fourth on Cartwright's RBI double that scored Roudabush (leadoff double).
"They put a lot of pressure on us," Gandy said. "I think (Marengo's speed) got to us a little bit."
Grayslake North finished with twice as many errors (4) as hits.
"It's not typical of the defense we've had," Knights coach Molly Jones said. "I think Marengo was a better team than us. They came to play, they executed in the crucial situations, and we didn't."
Grayslake North's Christina Freese broke up Montgomery's no-hitter with a clean single to center leading off the bottom of the fifth. After beating Antioch on Thursday, Montgomery struck out six and walked only one.
"She's very accurate," Cartwright said, "and consistent."
"She just doesn't give you anything right down the middle," Nance said of his pitcher. "If they get hits, they have to earn them. She hits her spots and moves the ball around. She can hit all four quadrants really well."
Borders led off the Grayslake North seventh with a shot off the right-field fence. But Marengo, executing to the end, got a strong throw by right-fielder Karsten to throw out Borders at second.
"We tried our best," Borders said. "It just didn't go our way."
Grayslake North loses three seniors, who happened to comprise the Knights' starting outfield Saturday -- Raquel Ness (left), Brianna Leon (center) and birthday-girl Hailey Badovinac (right).
"I'm very proud of our team," said Gandy, who allowed only 2 earned runs in her 7 innings. "Getting this far ... I'm not sure if I'm surprised, because I know we all love to play together. That really helped us. I think that's why we ended up here."