Jordan Kurth hadn't thrown a pitch in a game in more than a month. A recent slump dropped her in Waubonsie Valley's batting order until Tuesday.
As fate would have it, Kurth keyed a most improbable Warriors rally.
Kurth's single started a 4-run seventh inning, she threw 2-plus shutout innings of relief, then singled in the game-winner in the eighth as No. 11 Waubonsie turned the tables on a loss to No. 20 Neuqua Valley a week prior with a 5-4 win in Naperville.
Waubonsie (15-5, 9-3 Upstate Eight Valley) hadn't played since a 9-5 loss to Neuqua (14-9, 10-4) -- a game the Warriors led 4-0. This time it was Waubonsie that scored 4 runs with two outs in the seventh to erase a 4-0 deficit.
"It was cool to do the same thing, to give them a taste of their medicine," Kurth said.
Kurth's single started a string of five straight Waubonsie hits in the seventh, a rally further fueled by a Neuqua error in the outfield. That misplay allowed a pair of runs to score, and Erin Hohman lined the first pitch she saw into center for a single to score Mel Koulos with the tying run.
Waubonsie, which left the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings, found its clutch hitting after all seemed lost.
"It was awesome, because a lot of teams will get down when they are losing," said Kurth, who had 3 singles and reached base four times. "We came back."
Kurth, who last threw two innings against Batavia April 5, relieved Shannon Hohman after Neuqua had scored 4 times in the sixth. Carly Cervantez doubled to lead off the Neuqua seventh, but the lefty-throwing Kurth coaxed a pair of grounders to strand her at third.
Christina Pembrook was hit by a pitch to start Waubonsie's eighth, and after a sacrifice and a groundout Kurth lined a two-strike single past the first baseman, just beating the throw to first as the run scored.
"She's bounced around in some different spots, we've tried to find an ideal spot for her," Waubonsie coach Aly Kelley said of Kurth, "but she's adapted well. She really had a great game today."
With the win Waubonsie remains a game back of Bartlett in the UEC Valley, tied in the loss column with Lake Park. The Warriors host Lake Park today, and play Bartlett Saturday.
And they won under less than ideal circumstances.
With two starters out, Waubonsie played Tuesday with just one sub on the bench. Morgan James, filling in at second base, made a gorgeous diving stop and throw from her knees in the eighth on a liner that ricocheted off Kurth.
"We've had practices where we put the girls in mentally tough positions, so when they're put in tough positions in games they're not out of their element," Kelley said, noting with a smile, "we're a small team, but we're mighty."
The two teams were scoreless for five innings, Hohman matching zeroes with Neuqua's Mac Spittal.
Neuqua, which had won four straight coming in, broke through with 4 runs in the sixth. A pair of Waubonsie errors aided the rally, Colleen Hill doubled in a pair of runs and Alyssa Domico's double made it 4-0.
"It was a great game, both teams played great softball," Neuqua coach Melissa Wilson said. "Unfortunately, things didn't go our way in the seventh and eighth. Waubonsie did a great job of getting runs late."