After waiting as long as the Geneva softball team has to play outside this "spring" -- what's another two-and-a-half hours?
The start to the Vikings' 2013 season was delayed once again Wednesday, this time when their 10 a.m. start against Oswego was pushed back to 12:30 while Geneva athletic director Jim Kafer and the grounds crew worked feverishly to get the field playable. Everything from a blow torch to get the base pegs into frozen holes to numerous bags of quick dry were needed.
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The wait turned out to be worth it for Geneva who scored runs in five straight innings, then held off the Panthers' 3-run rally in the seventh for a 7-5 victory.
"I've never seen that before," Geneva coach Greg Dierks said of the blow torch. "The rest was this hidden monster, you didn't know how much frost was coming up. We kind of waited it out and fortunately it finally stopped deteriorating the field.
"I appreciate the grounds crew and our athletic director working as hard as they did to get the field ready. And I appreciate the fact Oswego was willing to wait and get the game in."
Neither Geneva (1-0) or Oswego (0-1) had been outside to practice before Wednesday, and it showed especially for the Panthers who committed six errors.
In her fourth year on varsity, Geneva senior Kirsten Searcy has seen her share of bad weather. But nothing like this. The third baseman went 2-for-4 with an RBI Wednesday.
"It warmed up as the game went on but at the beginning we were all a little tight," Searcy said. "Warming up at 8 this morning it was rough, really cold. We're used to bad weather but we've always started before break. We were definitely excited to get out and finish this game. We were anxious to get going."
The delayed start to the season meant Wednesday also was the debut for Geneva sophomore McKenna Schimmel. The left fielder delivered in her first varsity at-bat, ripping a line double to center to score Amanda Ebert with the first run of the game in the second inning.
"I was really excited to come out here," Schimmel said. "I just knew be aggressive to the ball, go get something started and I got my pitch and went with it. I knew I needed something for my first day and it was all I could ask for."
Jenelle Reilly (2-for-3) followed Schimmel's double with an infield hit to give Geneva a 2-0 lead.
After the Panthers scored their own unearned run in the top of the third, Geneva answered with single runs in the third and fourth before a three-run fifth to go up 7-2.
Among the key hits for Geneva were Searcy's RBI single up the middle, and Jordyn Schmidt plated a run with an RBI ground out. But more often than not the Vikings did a good job of putting the ball in play and capitalizing on Oswego's mistakes.
"We have a lot of new girls coming out and it was good to see them step up and get hits," Searcy said. "I know how it feels to be that young girl who is really nervous out there. I told them to just loosen up and play like they know they can."
Down 4-1 in the fifth, Oswego had a golden opportunity to get back in the game when the Panthers loaded the bases with three infield hits with no outs.
The Panthers got one run on a sacrifice fly, an out that turned into a double play when umpires ruled Oswego's runner on second base left early. Geneva's winning pitcher Haley Orwig then fanned Jess Clark to end the rally.
"I thought she pitched real well," Dierks said of Orwig who scattered 10 hits and struck out two in her complete game. "In particular I was impressed when they got a couple threatening situations that she got out of it, made a couple quality pitches to strand some runners. There might have been a touch of fatigue at the end. She pitched a good game."
Oswego scored three times in the seventh and had the tying runners on base before Orwig induced a grounder to Searcy at third to end the game.
Geneva returns to action Thursday with a doubleheader against Wheaton North.
"It's been hard, this is our first day outside the whole season but it feels good to be out here, start working," Schimmel said. "We really wanted to get it in, we didn't want to wake up early for nothing. It meant a lot to start it with a win."
Clark led Oswego with a pair of doubles. She took the loss despite not giving up an earned run.
"We didn't field the bunt as well as we needed to," Oswego coach John Carlson said. "We've got a lot of work to do. I thought we battled. We have a young team and I feel we have a lot to look forward to. We just didn't get things done that they did today."