Caroline Hedgcock remembered well her first time facing Naperville North.
"Home run by the leadoff batter," said the Downers Grove South freshman pitcher, "3-run homer the last inning."
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This was a whole different Hedgcock and a whole lot better Downers Grove South.
Hedgcock tripled in a 3-run first inning, then threw a two-hitter as the No. 9 seed Mustangs turned the tables on an April loss in Downers Grove by beating No. 8 Naperville North 8-2 in Thursday's Class 4A Batavia regional semifinal.
The conditions were almost as cold as the day of that 9-6 defeat, but Hedgcock wore a warm smile after this one.
"I've broke it down mentally, calmed down on the mound. I'm just taking it one pitch at a time," said the freshman lefty, who struck out four. "We've got together as a team and bonded, we're communicating a lot better. We can pretty much read each other's minds."
The two teams have veered in somewhat different directions the last month, and the Mustangs (19-10) wasted no time continuing that momentum.
Freshman Kristen Bialek, who reached base five times and scored 3 runs, walked to lead off the game and Melissa Orton reached on an error. Jessica Andree's sacrifice fly scored Bialek, and Hedgcock followed with a booming 2-run triple that couldn't quite clear the 230-foot dimensions in center.
"I was a little disappointed it wasn't out," Hedgcock said. "I wanted to watch it."
"She can really hit -- that girl's gonna be good," Mustangs coach Ron Havelka said. "She doesn't get cheated."
Downers Grove South eventually led 6-0, before Naperville North cut into that lead with Emily Hillier's 2-run single in the fourth.
Without a hit, the Huskies (15-16) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. But Hedgcock got Huskies leadoff hitter Alexis Solak on a hard grounder to third, and then coaxed another inning-ending grounder.
Unfortunately for the Huskies and coach Jerry Kedziora, the big hits have been hard to come by this spring.
"That's kind of been the tale all season. We just couldn't get the big hits when we needed them, couldn't get that contagious hitting going," Kedziora said. "It was just some tough breaks to not get those runs across."
Hedgcock retired the last 11 batters she faced, nine on groundballs.
"She threw a great game," Kedziora said. "We hit the ball hard at some people and they made the plays defensively. We just couldn't elevate the ball."
Next up for Havelka's young Mustangs is a tall order, an 11 a.m. Saturday regional final against No. 1 seed Naperville Central.
"We get the big girls now," he said with a smile. "We'll show up, we'll be there. It will be a tough game but that's why you play them."
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