The Bartlett softball team played a little game of follow the leader Monday.
Senior leadoff hitter Rachel Odolski was 4-for-5 with 3 runs scored and senior Jessica Kirby got over a rough first two innings in the circle as the Hawks beat South Elgin 13-4 in Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division action at Bartlett on the Hawks' senior day.
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"It's my job to get on base and get the spirit going for the team," said Odolski. "Follow the leader."
The win keep the Hawks (21-7, 12-3) in a virtual tie for first place in the Valley with Waubonsie Valley, which Bartlett will visit Tuesday. The Hawks, who are tied with Waubonsie in the loss column, play UEC games every day this week in what appears to be coming down to a divisional race between the two front-runners. Neuqua Valley's win over Lake Park Monday leaves Bartlett and Waubonsie 2 games ahead of Lake Park and Neuqua Valley, while South Elgin (15-11, 10-6) is now all but out of the race.
Monday's game started as if it were going to take a long time and have a double-digit score for both sides. Bartlett led just 5-4 after two innings but while the Hawks continued to score and take advantage of a 7-error day by the Storm, Kirby shut down South Elgin after a rocky start. After allowing the Storm 4 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits in the first two innings, Kirby gave up just 3 hits and her defense made only 1 error the rest of the way. She struck out 10 and didn't walk a batter.
"I haven't pitched in a couple weeks so the first two innings I was just getting my rhythm," Kirby said. "After that I was more confident and more focused."
And with her teammates continuing to tack runs onto the scoreboard, life became a little easier for Kirby as well.
Bartlett, which has won 9 of its last 10 and 13 of 15, began that separation with 2 runs in the third to make it 7-4. The Hawks tacked on three more in the fourth and three more in the fifth. The sixth was the only inning they didn't score.
"We were trading runs for the first couple innings but when we got up 7-4 Jessica really settled into her rhythm," said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith. "She hasn't pitched in a while because of the weather more than anything but she settled in after those first couple innings and got all her pitches working."
And the Hawks' bats never let up. Bartlett, which was held to 2 hits and shut out for the first time this season by Waubonsie Valley's Shannon Hohman on Saturday, brought the heavy lumber to the yard on Monday. Junior Kayla Haberstich was 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI, junior Holly Pagan went 3-for-3 with a 2-run home run and 4 runs scored and Sydney Johnson was 2-for-3 with an RBI. South Elgin's errors also contributed to 6 unearned runs for the Hawks.
"Give our kids a lot of credit," said Wolfsmith. "We didn't swing the bats nearly that well against (South Elgin) the first time. Even our outs today were hard hit balls."
Senior Kara Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a triple for the Storm and junior Alyssa Buddle was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Paige Allen had an RBI single and Victoria Watt drove in a run with a groundout.
South Elgin coach Jason Schaal felt starting and losing pitcher Allen deserved a better fate.
"When you commit seven errors in our division this is what happens," he said. "Paige Allen deserves so much better. We lost energy with all the defensive mistakes and it all just kind of snowballed. It's like Ying and Yang. Saturday, Paige pitches a great game, we don't make an error and we beat Metea 1-0. Today was just totally different. We need to rebuild some confidence."
Which is something Bartlett will need when facing Hohman and Waubonsie Tuesday, but for Monday at least the week got off to a good start for the Hawks.
"It's a big confidence booster for us," Odolski said. "We've got some tough competition coming up."