If West Aurora was looking to build momentum heading into its 2014 spring season, the Blackhawks couldn't have asked for much more than they got sweeping a doubleheader Friday at St. Charles East.
Spotting the defending Class 4A state runners-up a 2-0 lead heading to the bottom of the sixth, West Aurora scratched out two runs to tie it, threw out the go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the seventh, then plated the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 victory.
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Playing as the home team because the doubleheader was originally scheduled to be played at West Aurora, the Blackhawks' rally made a winner of Kaylee Hayton who held the high-powered Saints attack to 7 hits and 2 runs while striking out four and walking two.
"We came in knowing we would work our butts off," Hayton said. "We perform better against better teams. Winning this game I think will really give us a boost."
The Blackhawks carried that momentum into the second game and beat the Saints again, 7-2.
In the opener, West Aurora (3-1) mounted its comeback against St. Charles East (2-2) ace Haley Beno in the sixth. Gianna Drager and Cara Jimenez both singled.
Hayton, hitting cleanup, showed bunt and then pulled her bat back and laced a single to left field to score Drager and cut the Saints' lead to 2-1.
Kendall Podschweit, who would figure prominently in the seventh-inning rally, walked to load the bases with nobody out.
Beno got one out on a strikeout swinging at a down and away pitch. She got the next hitter to bounce to second, and Kelly Rinker came up throwing to catcher Mackenzie Meadows.
Meadows originally didn't have her foot on the plate. She thought she had touched the plate in time for the force out, but the umpire ruled otherwise as the tying run scored to make it 2-2. Beno retired the next two hitters on a comebacker and strikeout to leave the bases loaded.
The Saints tried to regain the lead in the seventh. Leadoff hitter Tess Hupe walked, took second on Olivia Cheatham's bunt and third on a passed ball.
Kate Peterburs, who drove in the Saints' first two runs with RBI singles, looked like she might have a third RBI with her ground ball to second baseman Corey McCreedy threw home. Hupe was flying down the line but the Blackhawks got the out call on the close play at the plate.
Hayton then retired Alex Latoria on a fly ball to deep right to keep it a 2-2 game.
"Getting out of that was a huge thing for the team," Hayton said. "We weren't going to back down. I was getting really nervous. I had to keep it on the outside of the zone."
"I thought those two were obvious," Saints coach Kelly Horan said of the two plays at the plate in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh.
"You have to beat a team where you not only have to beat your competition, you have to take the game out of the umpire's hands. That's a well played game when it doesn't come down to one call. I think that's our learning thing."
The game did come down to one more play at the plate. Taylor Podschweit went the other way for a triple down the right-field line to lead off the bottom of the seventh.
Drager and Jimenez walked to load the bases with nobody out. After Beno got Hayton looking, Kendall Podschweit grounded to Cheatham at shortstop who fired home but not in time to get Taylor Podschweit.
"Those plays at the plate were bang-bang," West Aurora coach Randy Hayslett said. "It is a great win, that's a great team. To battle back being down 2-0 going to the sixth, that's a good effort. We had some good cuts but couldn't put it together until the last two innings."
Hayslett was especially impressed with Hayton's work in the circle. The Saints scored single runs in the top of the first and fifth -- Peterburs singling home Hupe and Cheatham, respectively -- and that was it.
"Kaylee pitched a heck of a game," Hayslett said. "She's a workhorse, she deserved it. We've lost a lot like this the past few years."
"Just moving my pitches and having my team behind me, I wouldn't have been able to do it without them," Hayton said. "It was a really good game. Nobody kept their heads down. Everybody stayed positive."
Beno also pitched well for the Saints with 11 strikeouts. She allowed four walks and six hits -- Jimenez was the only Blackhawk with 2 hits while Peterburs was the only Saint with 2 hits.
"They are good, they have speed at the top, the middle of the order hits hard," Hayslett said. "For us this is probably our best win in the last couple years."
"When you play a decent team and let them hang around, they pushed enough across," Horan said. "Hats off to them. We need to make a couple more plays defensively. It's still early, we're still rotating people, we're trying to figure out who we are."
In the nightcap, Jimenez had another big day at the plate going 3-for-3 with 3 runs scored. So did Kendall Podschweit, who went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI.
The Saints took a 1-0 lead in the first and the Blackhawks plated two in its half. The Saints scored again in the second to make it 2-2, then didn't score again. West Aurora took the lead for good in the bottom of the second and broke the game open with 3 runs in the sixth.
Hannah Beatus earned the win with 8 strikeouts and just 1 earned run in her 6 innings.
Hupe, Katie Kolb and Rylee Stout all had 2 hits for the Saints.