Ellissa Eckert is making life easier for the Kaneland softball team, and her teammates sure made her job easier Saturday at Batavia.
Coming into the season with a number of experienced and talented hitters, one of the few question marks for the 2013 Knights would who would replace 20-game winner Delani Vest in the circle.
With a 4-0 record through Kaneland's first seven games, Eckert certainly has given the Knights just the pitcher they needed.
And with 11 runs in the first inning Saturday, those Knights gave Eckert what every pitcher would want -- a double-digit lead before she even tossed a pitch.
Kaneland coasted from there to a 17-1 victory, improving its record to 6-1 as it gets ready to start playing more Northern Illinois Big XII games in defense of its conference championship.
"Ellissa has been fine, she's throwing consistent," Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. "She's not a dominating pitcher, she hits her spots, she fields pretty well. We're happy with where she's at. She's done an admirable job on the mound so far."
The senior also helped herself at the plate going 2-for-3. Eckert said having an 11-0 lead after one inning didn't change her approach. She worked inside on hitters and threw her curve.
"The problem with having a big lead like that is you have to stay positive, stay on top," Eckert said. "If you let them go they are going to come back on us real fast."
Kaneland sent 17 players to the plate in the first inning.
The Knights capitalized on Batavia's wildness. The first four Knights -- Lexi Roach, Allyson O'Herron, Paige Kuefler and Lanie Callaghan -- all walked.
Sarah Grams was the first Knight to put the ball in play with a single, and Haley Contorno and Caroline Heimerdinger followed with hits.
"I liked the way they came out," Willis said. "They were focused and went right to work. We were patient at the plate and made her throw strikes when she was struggling at the beginning of the game. When she did throw a strike I thought we hit it well considering the wind is blowing in. I was very happy with the way we were hitting the ball down and hard and line drives."
After Batavia scored its only run in the first, the Knights added three in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth highlighted by a triple from freshman Meg Cohrs.
The Knights made the plays behind Eckert including a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth from O'Herron to Grams to Contorno.
"I have complete confidence in my defense," Eckert said.
Saturday's win continued a strong start for the Knights who went 3-1 to take third place in a 12-team tournament in Louisville to start the season.
"We played well considering we had not been outside," Willis said. "We were inconsistent which comes from not having a lot of practice time. We didn't have good at-bats at times. Mentally we made some mistakes we won't make a month from now."
The Knights beat Rochelle 10-4 in their only other game before Saturday. They return to action Monday against West Aurora.
"We're really close this year and I'm really enjoying it," Eckert said.