South Elgin softball coach Jason Schaal can't be too displeased with most facets of his team's game right now. But there's one thing Schaal knows the Storm will have to do better if it expects to contend for an Upstate Eight Valley Division championship.
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The Storm overcame 7 errors by taking advantage of every scoring opportunity it had and used a 2-run bomb to center field from senior shortstop Kara Rodriguez to down St. Charles East 5-3 Wednesday in UEC crossover action at South Elgin.
"Most of them happened with two outs," said Schaal of his team's errors. "We were able to sneak out of that today but we gotta fix the defense. We'll take it though. A win is a win."
The Storm (6-2, 2-0) was able to break on top in the bottom of the first inning. Mallory Mecklenburg drew a leadoff walk from starting and losing pitcher Alex Latoria and went to second on a passed ball. With two outs junior catcher Alyssa Buddle beat out an infield hit, sending Mecklenburg to third. She scored on a wild pitch.
South Elgin made it a 4-0 game in the second. Senior Victoria Watt (3-for-3) led off with a single and went to third when the Saints (3-3, 0-2) made their only error of the game on Sam Helton's bunt. Paige Allen's bunt single scored Watt, and Helton scored when Rodriguez launched a 225-footer over the fence in center.
"It was 2-0 and I was looking for my pitch; if it's there I'm gonna swing," said Rodriguez. "I had a little slump last year and tried to get out of it over the summer. I just kept telling myself it'll come back and hopefully now it will."
Down 4-0, St. Charles East coach Kelly Horan turned to Haley Beno in the circle and after allowing the Storm a run in the third inning when Watt's single drove home junior Katie Koss, who had doubled, she settled down to shut down the Storm the rest of the way. Beno allowed 3 hits, struck out eight and didn't walk anyone in 4 innings.
The Saints scored twice in the fourth inning off Koss, who went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits with 1 strikeout and 2 walks for the win, her fourth without a loss. Kelly Rinker started the rally with two outs for SCE with a single up the middle. Olivia Cheatham reached on an error and a liner up the middle from Lexi Perez (2-for-4) resulted in another error that allowed Rinker to score. Cheatham then scored on South Elgin's third error of the inning when Perez stole second.
St. Charles East added a run in the sixth. Cheatham reached on an error and then scored on a throwing error on Tess Hupe's grounder. But Schaal brought Allen in for the seventh inning and after giving up a one-out single to Sarah Collalt, she got Karin Kolb to line hard to center for the second out. Mecklenburg fired to first to double Collalt off and end the game.
"The last three years with Sam (Bolin) we were good to go but we had been through the lineup three times," said Schaal of the pitching change. "You might see us do that a lot this year."
Helton added 2 hits for South Elgin, which plays at St. Charles North on Friday.
"The bats have been there all season," Schaal said. "I'm excited to see Kara hit the ball; the home run was an added bonus."
Collalt had 2 hits for the Saints, who left 9 runners on base and had two thrown out trying to steal on Buddle, a James Madison recruit.
"I fully expect us to take some lumps early, and South Elgin's got our number," said Horan. "We're young. We'll be a lot better at the end than we are in the beginning. We gotta clean up some baserunning mistakes and be better on defense but hats off to (South Elgin). They hit the ball. Our kids kept fighting back and that was good."