'Home' run suits Elert, Carmel
If her line-drive, gone-in-a-second smash had been hit more to center field, the softball might have rolled all the way to her Libertyville house.
Amanda Elert's 3-run homer in the first inning, truth be told, was hit that hard.
It was the Carmel Catholic freshman catcher's 10th home run of the season and propelled the fifth-seeded Corsairs to a 14-4 win in five innings over No. 12 Stevenson in the teams' Class 4A regional semifinal at Libertyville on Thursday.
"She's just a very polished hitter," Carmel Catholic coach Jason Raymond said. "Almost every at-bat, she gets great swings on the ball."
Think Elert was excited to play on Libertyville's diamond?
She lives five minutes away, between Carmel and Libertyville high schools. If she wasn't attending Carmel, she'd be a Libertyville Wildcat.
"That's why it's always fun playing on this field," Elert said. "I've been looking forward to this since I was probably 8."
She gets to play at Libertyville again Saturday, when Carmel (21-11) faces No. 4 Fremd (23-7) in the regional championship game at 11 a.m.
Stevenson (17-14) was trying to avenge a 14-10 loss earlier this season.
"I think we came out feeling that we could play with (Carmel)," Stevenson coach Larry Friedrichs said.
Instead, like the last time they played the Corsairs, the Patriots fell victim to a big inning. They gave up 9 runs in one inning in the first game, and Thursday watched Carmel plate 8 runs in the third inning.
Carmel's Sarah Koesser went 2-for-2 with a 2-run single in the inning, while other big hits came from Skyler Zak (2-run single), Kathleen Felicelli (2-run double) and Jenny Behan (RBI single).
Five Corsairs had hits in the inning. For the game, Carmel pounded out 12 hits. Koesser, Zak, Behan and freshman Claire Petrus each had two.
"One through nine, we have some nice bats in the lineup," Raymond said. "We have some versatility with our lineup, as well. There's some speed, and we have a nice combination on lefties and righties."
One of the right-handed hitters commenced the scoring in the bottom of the first. Stevenson ace Sam Feder issued one-out walks to Felicelli and Behan, bringing up Elert, who drilled a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left field.
"Changeup, inside, low," Elert said. "I was like, 'Why not (swing)?' It felt good. It was a good spot. I just got lucky, I think."
It was Carmel's 35th home run, one shy of the amount the Corsairs hit last season.
"You can't give a team that hits this well free stuff," Friedrichs said, "because they're going to get their hits, and they're going to score runs. We gave them way too many things (including 5 walks) today."
Midseason freshman call-ups Dani Delozier and Petrus played key roles. The lefty-hitting Delozier went 1-for-2 with a walk and made a sparkling play at second base, diving to her left to field a groundball and throw out Jordan Cortesi. Petrus, who's a pitcher playing right field for the first time, was 2-for-3 with a double and 2 runs scored.
Carmel's freshmen have fit in seamlessly with the varsity veterans on the roster.
"It feels like I've known them a couple of years, instead of a couple of months," Elert said of her teammates. "We blend well together. It's been a really easy transition. I enjoy playing with them all."
Down 14-2 with two out in the fifth, Stevenson went down swinging. Sara Loerch (1-for-2, RBI) reached on an infield single, before sophomore Taylor Koenigs hit a 2-run homer to right field off her old Stingers travel teammate Nicole Bitter.
"I just wanted to end my season -- my career -- with a hit," Loerch said. "And it was against a pitcher I knew."
Besides the lefty Loerch, Stevenson graduates Feder, starting right fielder Morgan Manka and Maggie Thon.
"We improved a lot from last year (10-24 record)," Loerch said. "It was a great last season."
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