While other teams struggled to squeeze in a game or two last week, Naperville Central took spring break off.
Monday was the first day the Redhawks fielded grounders on dirt.
They hardly looked rusty.
Julie Kestas tossed a 1-hitter, and the bats woke up the second time through the order as No. 11 Naperville Central rolled past Glenbard West 9-0 on Tuesday in Naperville.
“We got together one day last week and practiced, and I worked with my catcher,” Kestas said. “We were surprised with how well we did today.”
Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum concurred.
“I’m pleased with the way we’re playing,” Nussbaum said, “and I think we can get better.”
Nussbaum can’t argue with his pitching so far.
A day after Keegan Hayes 1-hit Hinsdale South, Kestas was in complete control. In just her second varsity outing, the Redhawks sophomore struck out six, a one-out Jackie Feliciano single in the second inning Glenbard West’s only baserunner.
“Oh my goodness she threw hard today,” Nussbaum said. “She is markedly improved. That was nice to see.”
Kestas noted that her screwball and drop curve were working, with the riseball her putaway pitch.
“It was definitely my strikeout pitch. They couldn’t touch it,” Kestas said. “I feel a lot more confident this year.”
Stymied by Glenbard West’s Taylor Langtry for three innings, the Redhawks got rolling in the fourth.
Laura Dierking was hit by a pitch with one out, and after a groundout Lisa Tassi poked a run-scoring single past the shortstop.
That opened the floodgates. Abby Anaya doubled off the first baseman’s glove to score Tassi, and freshman Lindsey Gonzalez doubled in two more runs.
Hayes added a booming 2-run double in the fifth, and Megan Nerger doubled in Hayes. Every Redhawks starter reached base, with 2 hits apiece from Gonzalez, Juliet Tassi, Lisa Tassi and Nerger.
“We’re swinging the bats well,” Nussbaum said, “and I’m hoping when it gets warmer we’re even better.”
Langtry, Glenbard West’s ace, left the game after giving up Lisa Tassi’s fourth-inning single. Still rounding into shape from a shoulder injury, Langtry was limited to 69 pitches and struck out six.
“I wanted to limit her pitches and innings. It’s a long season,” Hilltoppers coach Mary McGrane said. “I thought she threw well.”
McGrane felt her team gave Naperville Central (2-0) extra outs in the fourth, and the bats are still a work in progress.
“Our hands are lagging through the zone and really not hitting the ball hard,” McGrane said. “We only got one ball out of the infield? Not good.”
Naperville Central figures to get tested considerably the next two days, a matchup with Plainfield Central followed by a showdown at No. 1 Benet Thursday.
“That’s OK,” Nussbaum said. “You’ve got to play those kinds of teams to get better.”
Glenbard West fell to 1-2 on the season.
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