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updated: 5/30/2012 10:49 PM

Loud and proud: Carmel mutes McHenry

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By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent

Today is "Mime Day" at practice for Carmel Catholic's softball team. The Corsairs plan to don black clothes and paint their faces clownish-white.

If the Marcel Marceaus in cleats truly stick to the day's theme, Carmel coach Jason Raymond won't hear a peep from his players.

"That's not going to fly," Carmel senior center fielder Kelley Dodge said after a Class 4A Cary-Grove sectional semifinal against McHenry on Wednesday afternoon.

"We're way too talkative," added Corsairs sophomore second baseman Amy Abel.

The sweetest sound of the Corsairs' day Wednesday was that of Dodge's bat hitting a ball in the bottom of the seventh inning. The sharp, two-out single past McHenry shortstop Alex McClaughry drove in junior catcher Skyler Zak to break an 8-8 tie and give Carmel a 9-8 walk-off victory in Cary.

McHenry's bats had reached deafening levels in the third and fourth innings. The Warriors plated 4 runs in each of the frames to take an 8-4 lead, with junior first baseman Kelsey Cichocki knocking in 6 of them -- a 2-run single in the third followed by a grand slam in the fourth. Warriors senior Kara Ekx belted a 2-run homer in the third to give her team a 4-3 lead.

"The girls' resiliency impressed me and they stayed together, stayed positive," said Raymond, whose program last faced McHenry in a playoff loss in 2006 -- on the same field. "So many good things happened for us out there today, and I'm proud of the way our girls kept fighting."

Carmel (19-18) will battle the winner of today's Rockton Hononegah-Jacobs semifinal for the C-G sectional title at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Carmel's comeback Wednesday started shortly after Cichocki's dead-center slam in the fourth. In the bottom of the inning Corsairs freshman third baseman Jenny Behan, a right-handed batter, curled a run-scoring single that kissed the right-field line to make it an 8-5 game. The talk of the 4A playoffs then knotted it at 8-8, thanks to Abel's 2-run single after a walk to senior Sally Snarski (1-for-3, RBI) had loaded the bases.

Carmel scored its first run of the inning on a fielder's choice off the bat of sophomore shortstop Kathleen Felicelli.

"This win was all about the little things," said Dodge (4-for-5, 2 RBI), who came up with a big catch on a screaming liner to right-center in the top of the seventh inning. The setting sun tried to temporarily blind her; Dodge dodged that obstacle smoothly.

Abel also made a sparkling play on defense -- right after Dodge's gem. Abel got horizontal to make a diving catch on a sinking ball in front of her. It would be McHenry's last at-bat of 2012.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Zak singled up the middle and scooted to second base on freshman Sam Melillo's sac bunt. Zak hustled to third on a wild pitch, setting the stage for Dodge's season-extending grounder past McClaughry.

The Warriors finished with 24-4 record.

"I'm so proud of what our pitchers did against such a great-hitting team," said Raymond, referring to sophomore starter Nicole Bitter and junior reliever Erika Schoenfeld. "We survived against a super lineup."

Bitter got the win -- in relief. She toiled for the first four innings before Schoenfeld took over to start the fifth. Schoenfeld allowed only 2 hits in 2 innings, relying heavily on an effective changeup.

"It's a nasty changeup," said Raymond. "Her teammates call it a 'dirty change.'"

Bitter reentered the circle in the seventh inning with one out and Warriors on first and second base. They didn't budge.

"I put her back in because the bottom of McHenry's order had a tough time against her in the first four innings," said Raymond of Bitter, one of 12 underclassmen on the 18-player postseason roster.

Carmel used small ball to gain a 3-0 advantage in the second inning. Following an inning-opening error, sophomore Erin Pauly (1-3, double) tinked a sac bunt to advance senior Madeline Felipez to third base. Zak then came up and bunted toward Warriors pitcher Kristin Koepke, whose throw home didn't beat Felipez. Melillo followed with another sac bunt before Dodge's infield single drove in the second run of the inning.

Dodge scored on Snarski's single to right-center in the first inning.

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