Some of the hitters in Thursday's softball "classic" may have questioned the strike zone on occasion, but Benet pitcher Molly Moran had no beef whatsoever with the home plate umpire.
The Redwings hurler survived a sluggish start to pitch a 10-inning gem as her team outlasted Naperville Central 7-2 in extra innings in Naperville. Moran walked the first two batters she faced and trailed 1-0 after one inning and 2-0 in the third before finding her groove and blanking the hosts over the final seven innings.
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"I had a little bit of a rough start because I know what a great team they are. But I got more confidence in myself and settled down," said Moran, who struck out 9 Redhawks and held the potent attack to just four hits after the third inning.
Moran worked both sides of the plate, went up and down in the strike zone and also managed to mix up her speeds while keeping Naperville Central at bay.
"I worked both inside and outside," said Moran, now 3-1 this spring. "(The umpire) had a pretty good zone today, and I found it. He was good. Actually all my pitches were working pretty well and I mixed it up."
Even so, Naperville Central (2-1), which had totaled 26 runs in two wins earlier this week, scored in the first when Kaitlyn Skarecky doubled home Lindsay Gonzalez. The lead was 2-0 in the second after Maddi Doane led off with a double and came around on a single by Gonzalez.
But that was all that Moran would allow on the day, and the Redwings bottom of the order sparked a 2-run rally in the fifth that tied the score at 2-2. In her first start of the year, Brooklyn Baccega had 3 hits, including a double in the fifth that was followed by a double from No. 9 hitter Shannon Mills to get the Redwings on the board.
Marissa Panko, who went 3-for-4 with 2 walks, then singled home Mills to make it a 2-2 game, and that's how it stayed until Benet took advantage of some sloppy defense to bust open the game with five runs in the 10th.
"Win or lose, that was a great game," Benet coach Jerry Schilf said after his team improved to 7-1 on the year. "We were lucky enough to put five runs on the board in the 10th, but you know we battled. I think we had baserunners on every single inning."
After Naperville pitcher Keegan Hayes battled Moran to a 2-2 draw for nine innings, she allowed a leadoff single to Jessica Brown in the 10th and then Baccega laid down a perfect bunt for a single. After a sac bunt and a walk, the Redhawks committed a pair of errors that, coupled with RBI hits from Emily York and Rowan McGuire, turned into a 5-run inning that led to victory.
Even in defeat, Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum knew he was part of a special contest.
"I told the girls, in terms of just pure softball, if there's been a better game played on this field in the past 10 years, I can't remember it," he said. "It was a classic high school softball."
Baccega said she enjoyed the game the longer it lasted. Plus she and her teammates really enjoyed the way it ended.
"It gets more fun as the innings keep going. We don't get tired and we never give up," she said. "I think the bottom of our lineup is just as strong as the top. Sometimes people get the wrong idea about the bottom, but it's important."