Just call it LAMC for West Chicago's softball team -- as in Life After Mary Connolly.
Connolly, the former Wildcat standout who led the program to three DuPage Valley Conference and regional titles in her four years and is now playing at DePaul, may have graduated but Wildcats' coach Kim Wallner wants everyone to know the program still expects to win.
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West Chicago did get a win in its first game of the 2012 season Thursday, but may have lost two starters for at least a while in the process.
Senior Katie Wiest was able to step into the pitchers circle in a tough situation and hold off Burlington Central's late rally as the Wildcats notched a 10-7 nonconference win in a 2 hour, 21 minute marathon on Rocket Hill.
Burlington Central committed 7 errors in the game and West Chicago got big days at the plate from Amanda Gosbeth and Casey Christ, who each drove in 3 runs, but the game had a couple unfortunate twists for each team.
West Chicago second baseman Morgan Dastych had to come out of the game in the third inning when she was hit in the forearm with a pitch from BC freshman Angie Morrow. Dastych was still having elbow pain and trouble straightening her arm after the game.
Wildcats' senior starting pitcher Tara Rayos had to leave the game later in the same inning after she tried to score on a hit by Becky Cabral. A clean but hard tag on the bang-bang plat aye the plate left Rayos with a bloody lip as well as concern for a concussion. Citing the IHSA's increased directives concerning concussions, the umpires decided to eject BC catcher Haley Albamonte from the game, leaving her status in question for Saturday's game against West Aurora.
Rayos' injury put Wiest on the spot quickly and she was up to the task. She entered the game with her team leading 5-4 and even though the Rockets (1-2) tied it at 5, as soon as West Chicago gave Wiest more of a cushion, she held onto it. The Wildcats scored twice in the fifth and three more times in the sixth to take a 10-5 lead.
"I had warmed up before the game and was prepared to go in at anytime," said Wiest. "Whatever my team needs me to do. "The lead was nice. I know I can count on my defense when I'm struggling."
Unfortunately for the Rockets, they couldn't say the same. Five of West Chicago's runs were unearned off Morrow and reliever Rebecca Roscher.
"West Chicago's got a lot of speed. They put pressure on our defense for seven innings and when you don't bring your gloves it's going to be a tough day," said Burlington Central coach Cray Allen. "We've still got lots of holes to fill."
Melanie Gajewski had 2 hits and 2 RBI for the Rockets and Bekah Harnish a double. Morrow walked 4 and struck out 3 in 5-plus innings.
Jessica Wood had 2 hits and Gosbeth a triple for West Chicago. Wiest struck out 5 and walked 4 in 5 innings.
"This is life without Mary Connolly," said Wallner. "We need these early games to figure out where we're at. This is only my second year but as assistant athletic director I've seen the softball team and it's always been Mary Connolly's team. This group of seniors wants to prove that we've been more than Mary Connolly. Mary was dominant but we've got more than Mary Connolly.
"I thought the kids responded nicely today after the first inning. Katie came in and settled us down and my assistant (Kelly Rose Ortega) did a nice job of calling pitches for Katie."