It may not have seemed like much at the time but Olivia Cheatham's plate approach in the first inning helped set the tone for St. Charles East's softball team Wednesday afternoon.
Batting second in the lineup, Cheatham worked her way to a full count before smashing a changeup to the right-center alley for a 1-out double.
After South Elgin pitcher Paige Allen fanned the next hitter, senior Sarah Collalti sent another changeup to short-center for an RBI single to put the Saints on top 1-0.
St. Charles East (6-2, 2-0) scored another run in the third before tacking on 3 runs in the fifth and sixth innings en route to an 8-2 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory over South Elgin (5-2, 1-1) in St. Charles.
"They saw it really well today," said Saints coach Kelly Horan. "Sometimes you've got a hitter who has an approach to a changeup like, 'oh gosh, I'm not going to hit it,' but that's not our approach. Our approach is if it's a strike, here it goes."
Cheatham, a junior who went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt, added an RBI single in the sixth to snap out of a mini-slump.
"It's definitely hard to wait on it (changeup) especially because we saw a very fast pitcher yesterday (Waubonsie Valley's Shannon Hohman)," said Cheatham.
"She totally waited on it," Horan said of Cheatham's first-inning at-bat. "What a message to the entire lineup when the first person that sees it (a changeup) with two strikes can sit on that and get a nice, little hit there. That helps us all."
Saints senior pitcher Haley Beno didn't need a whole lot of help as she fired a 5-hit complete game with 10 strikeouts.
Beno, who pitched back-to-back shutouts against Wheaton North (Saturday) and Waubonsie Valley (Tuesday), turned in another dominant performance against the Storm.
Relying on a sharp tailing curveball, Beno fanned 5 consecutive batters at one point, including striking out the side in the third inning. Her consecutive scoreless string reached 19 2/3 innings before the Storm tallied an unearned run in the sixth.
"I'm not going to talk about it because it's like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter," Horan joked about Beno's streak. "She did a good job mixing and her curve was wicked today. She's giving us a chance to win."
St. Charles East put the game away with 6 runs and 10 hits over the final 2 frames.
Collalti (3-for-4, 2 RBI) belted an RBI double and sophomore Katie Kolb had a run-scoring single in the fifth before Kolb (2-for-4, 3 RBI) returned to smack a 2-run single in the sixth. Junior Alex Latoria also drove in a pair of runs as part of a 15-hit attack for the Saints, who notched their fourth straight victory and avenged last year's back-to-back losses to Waubonsie Valley and South Elgin.
"I think we have a little sense of urgency right now," said Horan. "We understand that we're going to get everybody's best shot every single time out there."
"We're off to a better start than last year," added Cheatham.
Sam Helton (2-for-3, triple) and pinch-hitter Taylor Ford (RBI single) provided the bright spots for South Elgin.
"There was no offense," said Storm coach Stephanie Katzenberger. "The difference between their hitters in that box and our hitters in that box was night and day.
"I'm not very good at accepting handing things over and these guys (Saints) came out here to win," added Katzenberger. "Every at-bat, they were trying to flatten the softball. That's what I want to see out of my team."