Katy LaCivita wearing catcher's gear behind the plate no doubt was a sight for sore eyes to Downers Grove South Thursday.
So was its seventh-inning rally.
Loyola recruit LaCivita's three-run tying triple opened the floodgates, and the No. 20 Mustangs poured it on, scoring 7 runs in the top of the seventh to stun No. 16 Neuqua Valley 7-3 and snap the Wildcats' eight-game winning streak.
LaCivita, a two-time all-area catcher, hurt her shoulder last summer, relegating her to designated player duties so far this season.
Finally catching this week, she feels like a different hitter.
"I think being behind the plate kind of triggered my hit," LaCivita said. "I'm so much more into the game when I'm behind the plate, than when I'm DHing. I was so overjoyed to finally be back there catching my pitcher."
Mustangs coach Ron Havelka, too, feels like he has a more whole team with No. 16 behind the plate.
"It means a lot. She's an all-state catcher," Havelka said. "She wanted to catch today. I asked her if she was ready and she said, 'I'm ready.'"
Clutch hitting has been lacking for the usually hard-hitting Mustangs (14-8) this season and was for six innings Thursday when they stranded eight baserunners. In the seventh, though, seven straight Downers Grove South batters reached on rocket basehits. All nine Mustangs had hits in the inning.
No. 9 hitter Olivia Parks started things with a single, and with the bases loaded and one out LaCivita ripped a bases-clearing triple just fair down the right-field line to tie it. Next up, sophomore Caitlyn Daly doubled to center to score the go-ahead run.
"That inning was the first time I feel like everyone's consistently hit," LaCivita said. "We've been looking for a game to kind of break out what Mustang softball is all about. I think this game did it for us."
The next five Mustangs singled, the cherry on the sundae leadoff hitter Jessica Andree's RBI hit. Andree, a transfer from Hinsdale South, was 4-for-5 on the day, has 10 hits over the last three games and is hitting a team-best .493 on the year.
"One person started hitting, and all the bats came alive after that," Andree said. "It was like a chain reaction."
"We kinda saved it all for one time," Havelka said with a laugh. "We always say hitting is contagious, and it was in that inning."
The inning was like a startling splash of cold water on Neuqua sophomore pitcher Jamie O'Brien's recent hot streak.
Up until the seventh, O'Brien (9-5) hadn't given up an earned run in 28 innings, and in her last 33 had surrendered just 2 runs total. She skillfully worked out of several jams earlier Thursday, striking out five, but didn't survive the seventh.
"She had really done a great job in those situations, but sometimes things don't go your way. Today was one of those days," Neuqua coach Melissa Wilson said. "That's a good situation for Jamie to be in, and she's young. She'll learn from this. They got hot, and that's what happens."
Scoreless for five innings, Neuqua (15-7) broke through for 3 runs in the bottom of the sixth.
O'Brien reached third base leading off on a hard-hit flyball off the right fielder's glove, and Kelsey Dominguez doubled her in. Brooke Meyer followed with an RBI triple to the gap in right-center, and she scored on an RBI groundout.
Neuqua felt it should have scored even sooner. In the fourth inning, with O'Brien on third and one out, she came home on an apparent sacrifice fly, Mustangs right fielder Marissa Vazquez making a diving catch. After a short discussion, though, it was ruled she never tagged up, the call over-turned and O'Brien called out.