After losing to Bartlett 1-0 a day short of a year ago, St. Charles East junior Haley Beno was a little extra fired up to pitch against the Hawks on Tuesday.
The Saints couldn't have asked for a better effort from their right-handed pitcher.
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Beno tossed a 2-hitter and the Saints won their fifth straight, downing Bartlett 4-1 in an Upstate Eight Conference softball game played in bone-chilling winds at Bartlett.
"I was definitely trying to stay focused all day today," Beno said. "I wanted it bad."
The only 2 hits Beno allowed came in the second inning and gave Bartlett a 1-0 lead. Alex Morales led off with a single, went to second on Holly Pagan's sacrifice bunt and scored on a two-out single down the third-base line from freshman call-up Alyssa Nowak.
But after that Beno, who struck out four relying on a good mix of drop curves and riseballs, faced just 17 Hawks, not allowing another hit and only two baserunners. Saints' catcher Shelby Holtz threw out Bartlett courtesy runner Lauren Janczak trying to steal after a walk to Pagan in the fourth and Pagan drew another two-out walk in the seventh that was rendered meaningless when Beno got the game's final out on a comebacker to the circle.
The Saints (8-3, 2-2) tied the game in the top of the third and took the lead in the fourth, both times without the benefit of a hit. With one out in the third, Lexi Perez reached on an error, went to second on a groundout and scored on a throwing error. East then took the lead when Sarah Collalti and Katie Kolb drew walks to lead off the fourth and Kate Peterburs was safe on an error to load the bases. Pinch-runner Mackenzie Meadows then scored on Beno's grounder to short when the umpire ruled Bartlett catcher Dana Paul pulled her foot from the plate too soon.
While Bartlett (6-3, 3-1) didn't put a lot of pressure on the Saints' defense, when the Hawks did, East was up to the task. Second baseman Olivia Cheatham and shortstop Perez kept speedy Bartlett leadoff hitter Rachel Odolski off base, and Cheatham made the defensive play of the game in the sixth when No. 9 hitter Cara Carrion led off with a hard-hit ball up the middle that Cheatham backhanded and fired to first just in time for the out.
The Saints then added a couple insurance runs in the seventh. Alex Latoria drew a leadoff walk and Collalti slapped a single into left field. With one out Peterburs drove a double over Carrion's head in center to score both runs. East did leave 11 runners on base, the only real blemish to an otherwise strong effort.
"That can be really deflating to a team," said Saints' coach Kelly Horan, whose team left at least one runner on every inning and the bases loaded twice. "But it wasn't today. That's the fight in this team and I'm proud of that. Good pitching and defense trumps anything else any day. I was real happy with the way Beno pitched and our approach at the plate. It was fun."
Pagan took the loss for the Hawks, allowing 6 hits with 5 strikeouts and 5 walks.
"(St. Charles East) played a great game and Haley pitched a great game," said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith. "We didn't adjust and we kept popping the ball up. They played great defense and (Peterburs) got the big double. We need to do a better job but we're still growing."