St. Francis isn't necessarily a team that will small-ball its way to victory.
The elements Tuesday in Elmhurst made it a useful strategy.
The Spartans utilized 4 infield hits and capitalized on shaky Immaculate Conception defense early, then held on for a 4-3 Suburban Christian Conference crossover win in a game called in the top of the sixth inning due to rain at Plunkett Park.
St. Francis (20-2, 10-1 SCC Blue), which won its ninth straight game, expected a wet, slow infield and took advantage of it. Only 2 Spartans hits reached the outfield, but they manufactured their runs on a pair of groundouts, an error and an infield hit.
"The infield, because it's been raining the last couple days, is a little soft. We knew we had to run everything out," said St. Francis senior Brie Pasquale, a Loyola recruit. "We definitely talked about that on the bus. We never come out trying to get those little dinky hits, but we'll take what we can get."
The Spartans struck early in the matchup of the SCC Blue and Gold division leaders. Aly Germanos lined a single to lead off the game, Blaine Carragher reached on an infield single and an error on a Pasquale grounder loaded the bases. Alyssa Fernandez hit a topper up the first-base line, and everybody was safe with Germanos scoring.
Ali Dittrich followed with a run-scoring groundout, and St. Francis scored a third run when Maggie Remus' comebacker was fumbled.
"We kept the pressure on," Spartans coach Ralph Remus said, "and that forces some mistakes. The wet infield helped us out because we had a couple balls that normally would have got all the way to fielders that just kind of died."
IC (19-6, 11-1 SCC Gold), off for six days, was playing its first game since prom, and the rust showed early.
"I knew it would take us three innings, being off so many days, to get going," IC coach Frank Reaber said. "A good team takes advantage of their opportunities, and that's what (St. Francis) did."
Pasquale singled and came around to score on another Dittrich groundout to make it 4-0 in the third, before the host Knights started to claw back. With two outs in the bottom of the third, Maria Kieliszewski singled and Katelyn Conenna crushed her fourth homer of the year over the 230-foot fence in center.
In the fourth inning Katelyn's kid sister, Jessica, doubled in a third ru, but was stranded at second base.
"Jocelyn Sanchez hit the ball hard, Gabby Curran had a couple good hits. We were coming around," Reaber said. "I think we had them on the ropes. It's a tough way to lose your first conference game, but it is what it is."
St. Francis continues a busy, tough week today at home against Montini, which handed the Spartans' their last loss on a walk-off homer April 13 in Lombard.
"This was a perfect game to keep us going, going into tomorrow's game," Pasquale said.