Alissa Wachal rehearsed her home run swing in a scrimmage on the Conant softball diamond Tuesday.
The junior right fielder made it count for real on Wednesday when the Cougars opened their season with a 11-1 victory over visiting Wheaton North in six innings.
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"She hit one over the fence in our scrimmage against the junior varsity on Tuesday," said Cougars veteran coach CathyAnn Smith. "I said to her then 'I think we're going to see a lot of this from you.' "
It sure didn't take long to see it.
Wachal hit a towering solo blast that easily cleared the center field fence with two outs in the bottom of the fifth which extended the Cougars lead to 8-1.
Wachal nearly had one in her previous at-bat when she walloped a double to the right-center field fence leading off the third inning.
"Alissa has gotten stronger," Smith said. "And she is reading the pitches better."
Catching the pitches for Conant was sophomore receiver Dream Aaron.
She caught a combined 5-hitter from starter Kim Zaucha (5 innings) and reliever Sara Neuman, who threw one inning.
"Dream did a nice job stepping in for Miranda Cavin (all-area catcher last four years)," Smith said. "Dream worked well our pitchers and got them to settle down when they had to."
Neuman, a sophomore, retired the side in order in the top of the sixth with three groundouts, two to second baseman Telly Hunter and the other to first baseman Hailey Rothstein, who quickly fielded a slow-rolling grounder and flipped to Hunter for the third out.
Rothstein, who made a nifty scoop for a putout in the fifth inning, also ended the game with a towering sacrifice fly to left which got home Elisa Ambrose from third base.
Freshman Rachel Falbo and Neuman, who had tripled to right, had scored the first 2 runs of the inning.
"It was a great start on a really cold day," Smith said. "We came out thing like it was the middle of the season and we made sure to finish it off."
Top hitters for the Cougars were Ambrose (2-for-3, double) and Wachal (2-for-3), who reached base three times when an error was made her fly to the outfield in the first inning.
"I have a different mentality when I go up there to bat now," said Wachal, who also plays varsity volleyball and basketball. "I just want to hit the ball hard. I'm not thinking about home runs."
Rachel O'Malley, Hunter (double), Falbo and Zaucha also hit safely for Conant which clicked for 7 runs in the first inning.
Olivia Duguay, Hadley Pfalzgraf, Kelly Thorton, Kat Meyer and Bree Zbilski had hits for Wheaton North (0-3).
"I thought we showed more toughness than in our opener (a doubleheader loss on Monday to Downers Grove North)," said Falcons coach Danielle Soraghan.
"I thought our contact at the plate was a lot better and the girls gained a lot more confidence.
"We just made a couple of mental errors. Overall, I think we will learn from this. We just have to stay positive and up."