A much-welcomed sun pierced a pair of clouds and shone directly on Maria Schroeder's uniquely painted face as she trotted around the bases.
Lake Zurich's softball girls were just heating up on a chilly afternoon in Mundelein.
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Schroeder's 3-run home run got the visitors started, and by the time the sun was setting, Lake Zurich had gotten 5 homers from five players in an 11-5 win over the Mustangs, who were playing their North Suburban Lake Division opener Tuesday.
Jenni Gorey, Carlee Parsons, Mallory Parsons and McKenna Larson also went deep at Mundelein's long-ball hitter friendly field. The deep flies by juniors Gorey and Larson were the first of their varsity careers. Mallory Parsons, who hit a long home run against Warren on Monday, and Larson went back to back in the sixth after Mundelein (2-1, 0-1) pulled within 7-4.
"They were all ropes, too," Lake Zurich coach Michaela Towne said of her squad's 5 homers. "Not since I've been coaching have we ever hit five home runs in a game."
Mundelein got home runs from lefty hitters Abbey Rosenow and Haley Morelli.
Lake Zurich (3-2, 1-1) pounded out 17 hits, including three apiece by Schroeder, who missed hitting for the cycle by a triple, and slapper Maddie Minneci. Kaylee Grant (double), Gorey and Carlee Parsons each had a pair of hits.
"People were putting better swings on better pitches than in the past," Towne said. "When we were in Tennessee (on Spring Break) and a little bit (Monday in a loss to Warren) our pitch selection was iffy, at best."
Schroeder swung with authority on a 3-2 pitch by Erin Kennelly in the first, lining it over the fence in right-center field. Katie Brown and Grant had reached on a misplayed bunt and base hit, respectively, to start the top of the inning.
When Schroeder trotted out to her position at third base between innings, one of the umpires couldn't help but notice the black diagonal stripes she smeared across her face, her "war paint," as she called it.
"What's going on there, Braveheart?" the ump joked.
While several Bears wore eye black, no player's look was as stunning as Schroeder's.
"We started it in Tennessee," Schroeder said. "Then (Monday) we forgot to wear it and had a bad game. We usually do eye black only during playoffs, but we started it down in Tennessee again just to pump everyone up."
Schroeder picked up her fourth of 5 RBI on the day in the second inning. Gorey, who nearly homered in her first trip to the plate (her long fly landed by the fence), led off the third with a long drive to left. Three batters later, Carlee Parsons launched a pitch over the fence in center.
"We know it's a small field, and we have a lot of powerful batters who know how to hit," Schroeder said. "Our slappers did a good job of getting on base, and that allowed our power hitters to bring them in."
Mundelein's defense didn't help starting pitcher Kennelly in the first. The Mustangs committed a pair of errors and botched a rundown.
"You're not going to beat a Lake Zurich team like that having errors," Mundelein coach Brett Wilhelm said. "We got to play better softball there."
The Mustangs' Maggie Mahar was 2-for-2 with a walk, and Maddie Zazas went 2-for-4 with a double. Andrea Funteas and Mahar had back-to-back RBI singles in the fourth.
Wilhelm has been impressed with the offensive approach of Mahar, who played softball as a freshman last spring.
"She goes up there and she's not afraid to put the bat on the ball," Wilhelm said. "She's not over-thinking when she's up there."
Rosenow lifted a 2-run homer in the fifth, and Morelli belted a solo shot in the seventh.
Junior lefty Olivia Schneider made her fifth start in as many games for Lake Zurich and went the distance in the circle. She allowed 7 hits, striking out six. She allowed no runs and just a pair of singles through the first 3 innings. Both of Schneider's losses are by a run.
"The team knows it's her job to make hitters hit into outs," Towne said. "She's not going to strike out a ton. ... She's come out and given us real good efforts every time she's thrown."