Most teams have found hitting Downers Grove North pitching as hard as advanced calculus.
Six straight Trojans shutouts are proof enough.
Glenbard West kept it simple.
"We looked for the first good pitch we saw," Glenbard West's Meghan Johnson said, "and we hit it."
Johnson certainly did. Her two-out, 2-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Hilltoppers a dramatic 6-5 win over No. 8 Downers Grove North on Monday at Glen Ellyn's Memorial Park.
The Hilltoppers' win is the 100th at Glenbard West for fifth-year coach Mary McGrane -- the 1998 Daily Herald All-Area captain at Downers Grove North. It also was the Hilltoppers' seventh straight win, and most importantly it drew Glenbard West (17-9, 8-1 West Suburban Silver) even with Downers Grove North (23-5, 8-1) in the Silver race with three games left.
Glenbard West did it with 2 runs in the sixth and 2 in the seventh after trailing 5-2 through five innings against a team it lost to 3-0 April 20 in Downers Grove.
"I'll be honest, we didn't take the bat off our shoulders that first game. Today we did a much better job being aggressive," McGrane said. "I feel like the last seven games we're finally coming out and hitting that first good pitch. Just the fact that we never gave up, kept our composure and stayed confident -- this is the team I knew we were capable of becoming."
No. 9 hitter Julia Waggoner got the ball rolling in the seventh with a bunt single. One out later, Waggoner moved up on a sacrifice and Jacklyn Tyburk drew a walk off Downers Grove North's Elaine Heflin, who relieved Dale Ryndak to start the seventh. On a 1-1 offering lefty Johnson took an outside pitch the other way, slicing a drive into the left-field corner that brought home both runners.
"I struggle so much with those outside pitches," admitted Johnson, who was 3-for-4, drove in 4 runs and also got the win with 4 innings of scoreless relief. "I just went with it there. It was tailing enough that I knew it was going to fall in. Touching the bag at second base, it felt amazing."
It was a stunning way to lose for Downers Grove North, which could have all but sewn up its third straight outright Silver title with a win. The Trojans have thrown 17 shutouts this year -- six straight coming into Monday -- and had allowed just 2 runs in eight conference games coming in. Glenbard West's 6 runs tied Benet and Glenbard South for the most scored off the Trojans, the only three teams to score more than 3 runs.
Downers Grove North spotted Glenbard West a 2-0 lead after an inning, Johnson and Maddie Morris singling in runs, but the Trojans appeared in command after batting around in a 4-run third to take a 5-2 lead. Ryndak's 2-run go-ahead double was the big blow, and Ryndak retired 13 batters in a row in settling down after the first inning.
But the Trojans managed just 2 baserunners after soft-tossing Johnson relieved in the fourth, and Glenbard West scratched across 2 runs in the sixth to pull closer. Johnson singled in a run and a second scored on an error.
"They outplayed us, and they put the bat on the ball," said Trojans coach Mark Magro, whose two pitchers struck out just three batters. "We scored those 5 runs, and I think we got a little complacent."
Carolyn Nojiri and Sam Yeager each had 2 hits for Downers Grove North. Johnson (3-3) struck out four in relief.
"We were so motivated coming into this game," Johnson said. "We didn't give up, we didn't want to let them have this here. We want to bring (the conference title) back."