Of all the ways St. Charles East has been winning games in its current 17-game streak, the Saints added a new one Tuesday against Geneva -- the most thrilling one yet.
Olivia Lorenzini laced a rocket down the right field line to score Lexi Perez from third base, capping a 3-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning to turn the Vikings' 7-5 lead into an 8-7 St. Charles East victory.
It's now 17 straight wins and counting for St. Charles East (20-3, 9-2 in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division), along with career win No. 100 for fifth-year coach Kelly Horan.
Geneva (8-11, 4-7) sure made the Saints work for it, overcoming a 5-1 deficit with 4 runs in the sixth inning, then looking poised for the upset when Kelly Gordon blasted a home run in the top of the eighth inning.
Instead, the Saints showed they not only have talent but plenty of toughness as well.
"This is going to be something that benefits us," Horan said. "We know against quality teams like Geneva you can't play poorly. I like to see the fight we have. Come the postseason it's all about fighting. My kids have fight, there's not a doubt in my mind. Never say die, that was exciting."
With the wind blowing out the teams combined for 4 home runs, 2 for each side. Sophomore Madison Keith struck first for Geneva putting the Vikings up 1-0 in the second.
Olivia Cheatham started an eventful day with an RBI double to tie the game in the second. The Saints scored 2 runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to build a 5-1 lead against Haley Orwig (7 strikeouts, 2 walks).
Kate Peterburs, who doubled to start the fourth-inning rally, blasted a 2-run home run to account for the fifth inning runs, her first homer of the year.
"I was running around the bases thinking 'please go over, please go over,'" Peterburs said. "To be honest I was just thinking line drive, we just need base hits."
Geneva capitalized on a two-out error to score four unearned runs against winning pitcher Haley Beno (10 strikeouts, 1 walk) in the sixth. Gordon drove home the first two with a double to the right field gap, then McKenna Schimmel and Amanda Ebert followed with clutch two-out RBI hits to knot the game at 5.
"That was a well played game," Geneva coach Greg Dierks said. "We had a great comeback for ourselves and they did the same. I think both teams deserve a lot of credit. It was clearly a hitter's day, but I thought both pitchers did a real nice job."
Geneva nailed a pair of Saints at the plate to stay in a 5-5 game. Gordon got the first one, the senior catcher hustling on a wild pitch to grab the ball and throw to Orwig to get a runner sliding at the plate. The Vikings then ended the fourth inning when center fielder Bridget Weitzel gunned down a runner at the plate on a would-be sacrifice fly ball.
The Saints also had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh after a two-out double by Katie Kolb. Peterburs -- 3 for 3 on the day -- came up and Dierks walked her, a move that paid off when Orwig struck out Beno.
"It made me really mad because I wanted to hit but it actually is a compliment they were scared I was going to hit it," said Peterburs adding it was the first time she's been walked intentionally.
After Gordon -- in just her fifth game back from an injury that had her playing with a taped right wrist and hand -- put the Vikings up 6-5 with her homer in the eighth, the Vikings plated an insurance run on Amanda Geary's RBI single.
Turns out they needed more. Cheatham led off the bottom of the eighth with a homer. Shelby Holtz was hit by a pitch, and Perez and Tess Hupe both bunted for hits -- pinch-runner Mackenzie Meadows scoring on Hupe's when Geneva threw the ball away -- setting the stage for Lorenzini's game-winner.
"To some degree the confidence they have from that (streak) showed," Dierks said. "We got two runs in the top and they didn't flinch. Their 6, 7, 8 hitters could have batted 1-2-3. They were on us all day. They showed a lot of confidence the last inning and earned their win."
Those 6-7-8 hitters -- Peterburs, Beno and Cheatham -- combined to go 8 for 11 with 2 doubles and 2 home runs while Perez and Hupe both added 3 hits.
The Vikings had plenty of stars too including 2 hits each for Geary, Gordon, Schimmel and Ebert.
"We're disappointed we let that get away at the end but I hope when the sting wears off we can keep momentum from this," said Dierks whose team still has two games with St. Charles North this week. "It has been night and day difference the last half dozen games. We've been playing real well."