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posted: 4/24/2012 10:55 PM

Benet's Panko comes through in clutch

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  • Maeve McGuire of Benet makes the throw to first during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.

       Maeve McGuire of Benet makes the throw to first during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Maeve McGuire of Benet is tagged out by Maddie Wojciak of Downers Grove during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.

       Maeve McGuire of Benet is tagged out by Maddie Wojciak of Downers Grove during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Maeve McGuire of Benet is at bat during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.

       Maeve McGuire of Benet is at bat during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Elaina Heflin of Downers Grobe pitches during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.

       Elaina Heflin of Downers Grobe pitches during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Steph Abello of Benet catches a hit to left during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.

       Steph Abello of Benet catches a hit to left during the Downers Grove North at Benet softball game Tuesday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
 

Marissa Panko might get overlooked among Benet's big boppers, who have accounted for 29 home runs this season.

The little sophomore sure is money in the clutch, though.

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Panko's RBI single just over the shortstop's glove scored the go-ahead run, the No. 2 Redwings rallying for 4 runs with two outs in the sixth inning to beat No. 12 Downers Grove North 6-3 on Tuesday in Lisle for their eighth straight win.

"She's not going to hit home runs," Benet coach Jerry Schilf said, "but she hits the ball. She battles, she stays in there and more importantly she's going to get good swings, even with two strikes."

It was Panko's second-game winning hit in three games. On Saturday she hit a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to beat Marist. The .553-hitting sophomore obviously can hit good pitching, too. Tuesday's game-winner came off UIC-bound Trojans junior Elaine Heflin. Last year she hit a game-winning double off Richards ace Brianna LeBeau to send Benet to state.

Panko shrugged off how clutch she seems to be.

"I do feel confident up there," Panko said, "but I'm just trying to do my job, keep the rally going."

Benet's bats are never out of a game, and comebacks are nothing new. The Redwings (20-2) rallied from a 7-0 deficit in the season's first week to beat Neuqua Valley. But not against a pitcher this good. Heflin (9-3) came in with a 0.51 ERA, striking out almost two batters per inning.

Downers Grove North (16-3) jumped out early, Dale Ryndak's two-run homer giving the Trojans a 2-0 lead. Benet got a run back in the second, Stephanie Abello's RBI groundout scoring Panko. Sam Yeager singled in Ryndak, who doubled, in the third, but a potential fourth Trojans run was cut down in the fifth when Benet center fielder Maeve McGuire threw a runner out at the plate trying to score from second on a Ryndak single.

Benet got a second run in the fifth on a Julianne Rurka RBI groundout. Just as important the Redwings relentlessly worked the count, running Heflin's pitch total to 106 through five innings.

"She was probably the best pitcher we've seen this season," Panko said. "We knew if we could just continue to get deep in the count with our hitting that she would get more tired."

Emily York drew a walk to start the sixth, and after a sacrifice bunt Abbie Gerth reached on an infield error. One out later, with McGuire batting, the tying run came home on a wild pitch. McGuire walked, and Panko fisted an inside curveball into left for a 4-3 lead.

After a Kendall Duffy walk, Heflin's sixth, Rurka squirted a single through the infield to make it 6-3.

"My kids, they just don't quit," Schilf said. "They believe that regardless of the situation they're going to get it done. This is the best pitcher we've seen, and it took us a while to adjust, but we did."

Heflin, who struck out seven in a 136-pitch outing, was hurt by shaky defense behind her. Three Trojans errors led to all three Benet scoring rallies. That didn't sit well with Trojans coach Mark Magro.

"We played scared and played not to lose, instead of playing to win," Magro said. "All three games we've lost we've given away. We got complacent after scoring our 3 runs, and you can't against a team like that."

Moran overcame the shaky start to scatter 8 hits, striking out five.

"I always get down the first inning, but I always come back. I just mix up my pitches," Moran said. "This win feels so good. A lot of our wins early on didn't feel as good as this."

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