There is officially a logjam at the top of the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division softball standings.
South Elgin had a chance Tuesday to stay ahead of the division, but junior Danielle Jecmen and Lake Park had other ideas.
Jecmen allowed the potent Storm lineup 3 runs in the first inning but then she shut down South Elgin the rest of the way and let her own team's offense score the runs as the Lancers came away from South Elgin with a 6-3 win.
South Elgin (13-7, 8-2) is now tied atop the division with Bartlett, each holding a 1-game lead in the loss column over Neuqua Valley, Lake Park and Waubonsie Valley. The Storm hosts Neuqua today then plays the Wildcats again on Friday at The Ballpark in Rosemont.
"I said before the season if there's a tougher division in softball, I don't know where it is," said Lake Park coach Tom Mazzie. "There's just a ton of talent and DI players and I respect every coach in this division. It's a dogfight and it's going to be a fun couple of weeks coming up."
The Lancers (17-5, 7-3) won Tuesday's game with the long ball and the short game but above all they won it because Jecmen threw a 3-hit shutout after the first inning. She struck out 8 and walked 3.
"I just tried to mix up my speeds and move the ball around a lot to keep them on their toes and not too comfortable with anything," said Jecmen.
Senior Stephanie Starr staked Lake Park to a 2-0 lead with a line drive home run to center field in the top of the first inning, Shannon Fritsche scoring her first of 3 runs on the day ahead of her after reaching on a fielder's choice.
But South Elgin came back in the bottom of the inning to take a 3-2 lead. Victoria Watt led off by legging out an infield single and scored on a one-out double from freshman Cassidy Westlund, who took third on a passed ball. After Alyssa Buddle walked, Westlund scored on a first-and-third steal and Buddle took third on a throwing error, then scored on Sam Helton's perfect suicide squeeze bunt.
"I wasn't too worried about it," said Jecmen of the 3-run first inning. "I knew we could get 'em back and score more."
And that the Lancers did. Fritsche led off the third reaching on an error and scored the tying run on Sam Cummings' two-out single up the middle. Sophomore Marianna Colucci, who hit a huge game-tying grand slam Saturday in the Lancers' 7-6 win over Lockport, then launched a solo shot to right-center that put Lake Park up 4-3 and proved to be the game-winner. The Lancers added 2 runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Jecmen that scored Fritsche, who led off the inning with a single, and then a hard, almost swinging bunt through the infield by sophomore Maria Zepeda that scored Jecmen.
"We got away with the start tonight," said Mazzie. "I like to pride ourselves in the fact we're not just a mashing team, that we can score with some small-ball too."
Paige Allen took the loss for the Storm in relief of Taylor Rees.
"It's going to be one of those crazy years again," said Storm coach Jason Schaal of the Valley race. "I don't think we played badly today, Lake Park just played a little better than us. They got the hits with baserunners on and we didn't."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.