Larkin softball coach Anne Vogt, who played in many Elgin-Larkin games herself, said it best when she declared, "This is what Elgin-Larkin softball is all about."
And Vogt's Royals lost the game.
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But Larkin, in the throes of a tough 3-win season, gained a measure of respect from its crosstown rival Elgin Thursday night after one swing of Hannah Perrryman's bat gave the Maroons a dramatic 1-0 win over the Royals in Upstate Eight Conference River Division action under the lights at Judson University.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Perryman launched Kiernan Schock's first pitch deep into the night and screaming past the Judson scoreboard in left field as the Maroons (18-10, 11-6) not only staved off a valiant effort by Schock and the Royals, but also elimination from the UEC River race. With 3 games to play, Elgin trails St. Charles North by 2 games.
"Basehit," said Perryman when asked what her mindset was heading to the plate for what turned out to be a dream come true for anyone who has ever played in an Elgin-Larkin game. "Coach (Chad Dahlman) told us just to get a basehit. The first pitch is always the best one to hit."
Perryman and Schock battled pitch for pitch all night. Perryman (16-7) inched ever closer to the Elgin High single-season strikeout record, fanning 15 Royals to bring her season total to 314. Nine more Ks will break Elizabeth Waller's record set in 1996. That could come Tuesday at Streamwood after the Maroons take the weekend off.
Larkin's only hit off Perryman Thursday was a line drive single up the middle by a former travel ball teammate, Royals' senior Lexi Smithberg, to lead off the game.
"Lexi Smithberg has always been an incredible hitter," Perryman said. "I thought it was going to hit me. She hits everything up the middle."
Yes, this is what Elgin-Larkin softball is all about. Applauding the opponent after a tough fight.
And Schock was equally tough for Larkin. She allowed just 4 hits prior to Perryman's bomb. She didn't have the strikeout numbers Perryman did -- OK, so who does? -- but she was effective with a mix of pitches that had Elgin off kilter all night. And she was backed by a defense that was next to flawless. Elgin had runners in scoring position in four different innings including loading the bases with one out in the third, but each time Schock got out of it.
"She did a great job with her changeup," said Perryman of Schock. "She kept us off balance."
Perryman wasn't quite done being complimentary of those around her. Many times we forget about the other end of the pitch, which is also where the pitch starts. And with the Maroons that's with sophomore catcher Kelly Bremer, who keeps calling outstanding games for an outstanding pitcher, and who also had a double Thursday night.
"Kelly does everything in her power to do her best," Perryman said of Bremer, who Dahlman has turned the game calling duties over to this season. "There would be no strikeouts without her."
Dahlman's been on both sides of the fence in this city rivalry, first as a baseball player and then softball assistant at Larkin and now as the Maroons' softball coach, and he marveled at both Schock and Perryman's performances.
"(Schock) really had us off balance," said Dahlman, who is also responsible for this game being played at Judson, a nice evening tough under some pretty bright lights to highlight the city's softball players. "She did a great job of mixing it up. Hats off to Schock."
And at this point, Dahlman just shakes his head when asked about Perryman's performance game in and game out.
"She's a machine," he said. "She's throwing well, she's hitting well. When we need a big out or a big hit she comes up with it."
Vogt may have been as pleased with her team's performance as she has all season.
"We were at rock bottom a week ago but we've turned it around some," said Vogt, whose team snapped a string of shutout losses by scoring 3 runs in its two games prior to Thursday night. "We want to end strong for our eight seniors. And tonight, as a former Royal, this is what Elgin-Larkin is all about. I couldn't be prouder of our girls. They left it all out there. Kiernan pitched the game of her life, Alex Buhrow called a great game and Lexi Smithberg set the tone for us on defense.
"We've been looking for improvement beyond wins and losses and today was the first day all 13 kids bought into not worrying about what the scoreboard says."
Watching this one with a couple guys who have seen many of them as well, Dave St. John and Dave Covey, I couldn't help but really appreciate what Elgin-Larkin is all about. Softball, baseball, basketball, whatever. Elgin-Larkin is and always will be something special. Performances like Thursday's just make it a little sweeter.
And then, hearing right after the game that Elgin-Larkin football is returning to play under the Friday Night Lights this fall, well, it just doesn't get much better.