Beating Bartlett twice in a week seems like no easy chore.
Shannon Hohman and Waubonsie Valley have it figured out.
For the second straight year, needing two wins in the last week of a tight conference race, Waubonsie took back-to-back games with Bartlett. Three days after winning at Bartlett, the No. 12 Warriors are in the driver's seat in the Upstate Eight Valley after a 5-3 victory over the No. 14 Hawks on Tuesday in Aurora.
Waubonsie (20-5, 14-3), in first place alone, can win the UEC Valley outright by beating Metea Valley on Wednesday and South Elgin on Friday. It would be the first time Waubonsie has won consecutive conference softball titles.
"We needed to come out with the same intensity that we did on Saturday. I think we did that," said Warriors sophomore Hohman, who struck out eight, allowed just 1 earned run and also drove in 3 runs. "Now we just have to keep rolling. We want that conference championship."
Hohman (16-5) on Saturday became the first pitcher to shut out Bartlett (21-8, 12-4) all year.
She was sharp once again.
Throwing first-pitch strikes to 24 of 29 batters, Hohman didn't allow a hit until Kayla Haberstich's one-out single in the fourth inning. Her screwball and curve seemed to both be in sync.
"My speed, my movement, it helped me a lot. I've been working ahead like crazy," Hohman said. "I wanted to keep them off the bases because once they get on they can do all sorts of things."
Hohman's double-play grounder scored Amanda Lack in the first inning. In the third Jordan Kurth doubled and Amanda Minahan was hit by a pitch. On a double steal play, Kurth looked to be out easily, but eluded the catcher's tag to make it 2-0. Hohman then lined a single, scoring Minahan.
Down 4-0, Bartlett mounted its best rally in the fifth. Sydney Johnson singled, Alyssa Nowak hit a ground-rule double and a hit batter loaded the bases. Rachel Odolski squeezed in Johnson, a second run scored on a grounder and a third came home on a dropped pop-up in short right field.
"We battled, unlike the last game," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "You give a great pitcher like Hohman the lead, it's asking a lot to come back."
Hohman answered Bartlett's rally with a big insurance run, a two-out double scoring Lack.
Hohman received good defense behind her in the sixth and seventh. Lack threw out a baserunner at second base, and on a game-ending play Meghan Grannan snared a liner at first and dove to the bag to double off a runner.
"We've talked about staying mentally tough for seven innings. Our little lapses, they're not lasting as long now," said Waubonsie coach Aly Kelley, whose team won its sixth straight game. "I think we've found that focus."
Bartlett will need help to share the Valley title, but Wolfsmith sounded like a coach ready to move on to the next goal. With good reason. Four years ago, his Hawks went unbeaten in conference, and lost in regionals. Last year Bartlett struggled late in conference, then made it all the way to the state championship.
"I'd much rather have what happened last year," Wolfsmith said. "We want to be playing good softball and at times I thought we played good softball today. I don't think we played a full game of good softball, and Waubonsie took advantage of it."