A slight dose of rain aside, this was just what the doctor ordered for Lake Park.
A day after their bats were silenced at Waubonsie Valley, the No. 12 Lancers broke out to beat No. 20 Neuqua Valley in an 8-5 back-and-forth Thursday game in Roselle.
Kelly O'Neill's go-ahead 2-run double capped a 5-run fifth inning, and Danielle Jecmen made the lead stick.
"We kept our heads up," O'Neill said. "The season's coming to a close, I think we're starting to realize that we need to find ways to win every game."
Close contests have been few and far between for Lake Park of late.
In fact this was the Lancers' close game since its come-from-behind win over Lockport on April 27.
They answered the bell. Kelsey Dominguez's 3-run homer in the top of the fifth gave Neuqua (14-10, 10-5 Upstate Eight Valley) a 3-2 lead, but Lake Park (21-8, 11-4) came right back in the bottom half.
Jecmen singled in Stephanie Starr, and after loading the bases Dena Guthrie delivered a pinch-hit 2-run single. Next up, O'Neill drilled a gapper to right-center, making it 7-5.
"We've been working on staying through the ball and I think toward the end of the game we really started to do that," O'Neill said. "I thought we did a great job of making adjustments today."
Sam Cummings' long solo homer in the sixth tacked on an insurance run.
Jecmen loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and walked a pair of runners in the seventh but wiggled out of both jams.
"It was the kind of game we haven't played much of this year. We've either blown people out or been getting blown out," Lake Park coach Tom Mazzie said. "It was pretty awesome to see us battle, to fight and claw and nice to see the bottom of our order get on consistently to give the top of the order chances."
Neuqua dropped its second game in three days, and a familiar theme was an inability to build on big innings.
The Wildcats scored all their runs in one inning in a 5-4 loss to Waubonsie on Tuesday. This time, take away Dominguez's homer, Neuqua was missing that one hit in the clutch.
"They executed when they got runners on base and we didn't," Neuqua coach Melissa Wilson said. "It has to happen more consistently. Against a good team like Lake Park, they're going to keep on coming."
Alyssa Domico reached base three times for the Wildcats. Wilson senses a team competitive with many of the better teams out there, yet not quite getting over the hump.
"I think we're selling ourselves short a little bit," Wilson said. "We can beat these teams. We're right there, we're just missing that one big hit which is what we need."
Starr reached base three times and Cummings and Jecmen had 2 hits apiece for Lake Park, which kept alive an outside shot in the UEC Valley. The Lancers are two back in the loss column of Bartlett, which they host next Friday, and one back of Waubonsie.
Mazzie won't put too much undo pressure on his group with scenarios beyond their control.
"Sometimes you can care too much," he said, "and with how much work they put in I feel like at times they care too much and when you care too much you're tight. We need to take these two next weeks to play loose, play free and find those swings for the playoffs."