As Saints coach Kelly Horan said, winning five games in two days to claim their own St. Charles East tournament title for the second straight year took contributions from her entire roster.
Fitting then how the Saints capped the tournament.
Freshman Katie Kolb, recently nicknamed “Home Run City” by Horan and assistant coach Jared Gutesha, smacked a grand slam to erase a 3-0 deficit in a 5-3 win over Hoffman Estates.
That gave St. Charles East a 5-0 record in the two-day tournament including three wins Saturday. And it pushed their overall mark to 18-3 with 15 straight wins.
“We’re just working hard, our defense is phenomenal, me and (Haley) Beno are working together pitching, and we’re getting the hits and everything is working great,” sophomore Alex Latoria said. “Everyone contributes every game.”
Latoria, one of the stars of the tournament with 3 home runs in 5 games and a 2-0 pitching record, said she was happier for her teammate.
“Katie Kolb, that was awesome, I was more excited about that than my home runs,” Latoria said. “She did a great job.”
Down 3-0 in the third inning, No. 9 hitter Shelby Holtz started the winning rally with a hit, and Lexi Perez — who was 3 for 3 — and Tess Hupe also reached to load the bases.
After both the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters popped out, Kolb picked them up by ripping a ball well over the right field fence for her first career home run.
“To have Shelby at the bottom of the lineup have a good at-bat, turn it over for our 1 and 2 hitters do their job — a lot of teams would be upset when our 3, 4 hitters pop it up. And then to have a freshman hitter come up and scorch one out? My goodness,” Horan said.
Kolb is part of a young Saints team with just three seniors.
“You hear college coaches say all the time after so many games you aren’t a freshman anymore,” Horan said. “We’re going to tease her, we’re going to pick on her sometimes, but when it comes to playing there’s nothing freshman about her. Coach Gutesha and I started calling her Home Run City because she carries herself like that. That started a couple days ago and sure enough today she hit one. I’m pretty sure that ball found her bag pretty quickly, and it should have.”
Latoria gave the Saints an insurance run with another home run in the fifth while she and Beno split the pitching duties; Beno getting the win to improve to 11-2.
“I’m just working on trying to hit line drives,” Latoria said. “If it turns out to be a home run it turns out to be a home run. I’m just trying to get those runs in.”
The Saints opened the tournament Friday with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Maine South and an 11-2 thrashing of Lyons who went on to take second in the tournament.
St. Charles East got Saturday started by beating St. Ignatius 9-3. The first five hitters in the Saints’ lineup — Perez, Hupe, Olivia Lorenzini, Latoria and Kolb — all had 2 hits.
Kolb doubled twice, Latoria blasted one of her three home runs in the tournament and Perez sored 3 runs. The Saints scored 2 runs in the first and led 4-1 going to the seventh before breaking the game open with 5 runs.
Latoria earned the win improving to 6-1 by scattering 5 hits and 4 walks while allowing just 2 earned runs and striking out three.
It was Beno’s turn in the next game and she went the distance in a 4-1 victory over Rockford Harlem. Beno fanned seven and walked three, and the only run she allowed was unearned.
“Me and Beno get along great and we always have each other’s back,” said Latoria who mostly mixed her drop curve and rise ball. “We work off each other.”
Latoria also homered in the win. Hupe was the only Saint with 2 hits while Lorenzini doubled and drove home two runs. Kate Peteburs drove in the other run.
All those different names chipping in for a win? That’s just what Horan has come to expect.
“I think the most entertaining part is they are winning in different ways,” Horan said. “And it’s someone else. When you play five games in two days you have to have everybody contribute. It allows everyone to take a deep breath.”
In her fifth season with the Saints, Horan has yet to see a team on a run like her current squad.
“My first year, that was a great team with wonderful kids and I like that they are all old now and still check in and see how the team is doing,” Horan said. “But I don’t know if I’ve had a more enjoyable experience than I am having now. These kids are ballplayers. They appreciate being coached, they appreciate being pushed, and they are just having a lot of fun. I hope this season lasts forever.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.