DeKalb brought its big bats to Maple Park on Wednesday, but not even a couple long balls or playing from behind all game long were enough to cool down the red-hot Kaneland Knights.
Lexi Roach reached on a bunt single to ignite a 4-run rally in the sixth inning, an uprising that was the difference in a 7-4 win over the Barbs that keeps Kaneland perfect as it closes in on the Northern Illinois Big 12 East championship.
“They haven’t quit all year,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “When we keep playing hard for seven innings things have been going well for us.”
DeKalb (14-7, 5-3) jumped on Knights starter Delani Vest when the second batter of the game, sophomore Lindsey Costilow, blasted a home run to center.
The Barbs made it 2-0 in the second keyed by another long hit, a double that one-hopped the fence from Alysha Guy.
Kaneland (23-5, 7-0) got a run back in its second on an RBI single from Haley Contorno. But the Barbs avoided a bigger inning on a line drive double play with the bases loaded.
That was one of several baserunning miscues for Kaneland who also had a runner thrown out at third with no outs in the fifth inning on Paige Kuefler’s single.
“It would have been disappointing (to lose) no doubt about it especially with all the opportunities we left out there,” Willis said. “Base running and some of the defensive gaffes we made at the beginning but this team is resilient. I thought we hit the ball hard all six innings. I figured we’d get to her (DeKalb starter Kaylin Kennedy) at some point.”
Kennedy replaced ace Katie Kowalski in the circle. Kowalski has been sidelined the last two weeks but is expected to return before the postseason.
Sarah Friedlund nailed a 2-run home run in the third to open a 4-1 lead for the Barbs. That turned out to be all the runs Delani Vest allowed. She retired the final seven batters she faced and finished with 4 strikeouts and no walks in 7 innings, scattering 11 hits.
Kaneland scored twice in the third on an RBI single by Lanie Callaghan and RBI groundout by McKinzie Mangers, scoring Allyson O’Herron and Kuefler who had both walked.
That made it a 4-3 deficit which was where the game stayed until the Knights came to bat in the sixth. After Roach reached leading off, Sarah Grams laced a one-out single and Allie Miller — serenaded by her teammates after the game with “Happy Birthday” — walked to load the bases for leadoff hitter Vest.
Vest grounded to shortstop Jessica Townsend’s whose throw to first got away. Two runs scored to put the Knights ahead 5-4, and O’Herron and Kuefler followed with RBI singles to plate insurance runs.
“We always look forward to playing DeKalb, they are always a good team so when we found ourselves down we were kind of worried,” O’Herron said. “But I knew we could pull through. We’re a great team and we pull together really well. We’re good at picking each other up. We get discouraged at times but we trust each other. A lot of us have known each other for a very long time.”
Kuefler enjoyed another big day at the plate going 3-for-3 while O’Herron, Roach and Contorno each had 2 hits.
“We played a really good game today,” DeKalb coach Jeff Davis said. “To me it had that playoff atmosphere and that’s what I’m looking for my kids. Are they ready to play against the good teams?”
Kaneland certainly qualifies as that, now with 16 wins in its last 17 games.
“The girls have been rallying around each other all year,” Willis said. “We have a big roster and everybody has stayed positive and picked each other up whether they are playing or whether they are watching that day.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.