Time and time again on a frigid Friday at Geneva, the Vikings had runners on base ready to score and hand South Elgin its first Upstate Eight Conference defeat.
Except that time and time again South Elgin's Paige Allen and Katie Koss made the pitches they needed to and left those runners stranded.
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While Geneva left at least one runner on base in every inning and 11 in the game, the Storm scored once in the fifth inning and twice in the sixth to break a 2-2 tie and post a 5-2 win.
Koss relieved Paige in the fifth and recorded the win, improving to 6-1. South Elgin (9-4, 5-0) scored 2 runs in the first inning and never trailed, but Geneva (3-5, 1-4) certainly had its chances, outhitting the Storm 11-6 in an UEC crossover matchup.
"Our pitchers were working the ball really well in and out," South Elgin catcher Alyssa Buddle said. "We weren't getting all the calls we wanted all the time but they pushed through. They kept the batters off balance even when we were in pressure situations."
Buddle got the Storm off to a good start. South Elgin took advantage of two walks and an error to load the bases with no outs in the first, and Buddle lined a single to left field for a 2-0 lead.
"As I was going up to the plate I was thinking single, single all the way," Buddle said. "I usually let the first pitch go but it was a change-up and I saw it through her hand to my bat so I thought I might as well go for it and I hit it solid."
Geneva pitcher Emily Plocinski limited the damage to those 2 runs by striking out a pair, then didn't give up another hit until the fifth inning.
That gave the Vikings time to get back in the game. Madison Keith doubled off the left field fence in the second inning and later scored on a South Elgin throwing error on a bunt.
Geneva tied the game 2-2 in the fifth. The top of the order Anna Geary and Bridget Weitzel both singled. After Plocinski walked to load the bases, McKenna Schimmel drove in Geary with an infield single.
Storm coach Jason Schaal turned to Koss in relief of Allen, and the move worked with a pair of groundouts to strand three more runners.
South Elgin regained the lead in its half of the fifth. Kara Rodriguez ripped a vicious line drive that hit Plocinski and left the Geneva freshman on the ground for several minutes.
Plocinski managed to shake off the injury and stay in the game. Victoria Watt put down a bunt, and after Geneva got the out at first the Vikings threw to third trying to get Rodriguez taking the extra base. The throw got away down the left-field line, and Rodriguez easily came in for a 3-2 lead.
"That was momentum there, that was a big swing," Schaal said. "Kara, that was a shot. I hope their pitcher is OK."
Dierks said Plocinski was.
"She's a tough kid," Dierks said. "I saw her get hit in the fall by somebody pretty hard and she didn't even flinch."
Singles by Jordyn Schmidt and Geary again gave Geneva a great chance in the sixth, but with two outs Kirsten Searcy flew out just short of the fence in dead center.
"That was one of many chances," Dierks said. "That would have been a nice one, that would have put us out in front. That was a nice at-bat."
South Elgin plated a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on a pinch single by Sam Helton, Allen's single, a Geneva throwing error, and an RBI groundout from Mallory Mecklenburg.
Buddle had 2 hits for a Storm team that will try to stay undefeated in conference Tuesday against Streamwood.
"We've been doing a great job," Buddle said. "We've been working hard in practice and our goal is we want to be conference champions."
Dierks also was encouraged with Geneva's play coming on the heels of a 4-2 loss to Neuqua Valley. Geary, Weitzel and Plocinski all had 2-hit games.
"I thought we fought hard today," Dierks said. "South Elgin has been playing really well. We just have to break through. I think we're making progress. We're knocking on the door."