Victory wears well on Phillips, Antioch
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Bound for Ball State University, where she plans to study fashion merchandising, Antioch senior pitcher Katie Phillips showed off her style Tuesday.
Never mind that she was wearing her softball uniform and sweating under the season's hottest sun.
"I like clothes," a smiling Phillips said.
While pitching Antioch to a 5-1 win over host Wauconda in the teams' North Suburban Conference Prairie Division finale, Phillips dusted off her old outfielder skills.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Wauconda's Megan Luchowski fought off a Phillips pitch to hit a shallow popup, which looked destined to fall just past the circle and splash infield dirt. Instead, Phillips sprinted a few steps and made an over-the-shoulder grab.
"My drop-step outfielder skills," Phillips said.
Antioch's ace the last two seasons, Phillips was the varsity's starting center fielder in 2011 when Olivia Duehr (Northwestern) was blowing away hitters. Phillips' defensive gem was fitting on a day Antioch (19-11, 8-4) played strong in the field again in winning its fifth game in a row.
"The defense has been outstanding, and the pitching has been consistent (during the winning streak)," Antioch coach Anthony Rocco said. "All year our pitching, between (Kaytee) Keefe and Phillips, has been outstanding. They've gotten beat up maybe only once each."
Against Wauconda (18-11, 8-4), Sequoits shortstop Jessica Pedersen turned a 6-3 double play that ended the first inning, and center fielder Hannah Skoog hauled in Paige Motley's hard-hit ball to finish the sixth. Besides robbing Luchowski, Phillips threw out a runner at third base and one at second on slow rollers hit her way.
"I just trust the people behind me," Phillips said. "I think it's easier for us when we all communicate and trust each other. And since our 'D' has been like that, we have confidence in it."
"She made a great play (on Luchowski's popup)," Rocco said. "And she made a couple of plays off the (pitching rubber) that were really nice, where she was able to get the ball and get the lead runner."
Wauconda needed to beat Antioch and hope for a Round Lake upset of Grant to finish in a first-place tie in the division. Grant beat Round Lake 18-1 to win its first NSC Prairie title.
"Congrats to Grant," Wauconda coach Tim Rennels said. "They held off everybody."
Phillips' 2-run double with two out in the first proved to be all the runs she needed. Keefe (1-for-3) and Kaylene Ressler (1-for-2) had drawn two-out walks off Wauconda freshman ace Kayla Wedl (2 earned runs, 5 hits, 8 strikeouts, 2 walks).
Phillips, who's been averaging better than a strikeout per inning during the Sequoits' recent hot streak, struck out only three and walked three.
"She let the defense work for her," Rocco said. "She did a great job. She worked their batters hard."
Wauconda got 2 hits apiece from Wedl and Lauren Nee, whose fifth-inning RBI single spoiled Phillips' shutout bid. Power-hitting Alex Kinnamon went 0-for-3 in her first game back after missing more than a week with a concussion. The senior veteran, who usually catches, was employed as the Bulldogs' designated player. Without her, Wauconda lost key games to Vernon Hills and Lakes.
"Our leader, our biggest bat," Rennels said of Kinnamon. "Obviously we felt Alex's absence."
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