To hear Maddi Doane explain it, the end to Naperville Central's softball game on Monday was rather ho-hum.
She described the Redhawks' winning rally in the bottom of the seventh against Lake Park as the old, "Get 'em on, get 'em over and get 'em in" cliché. But the action Monday was intense. The visiting Lancers put up quite a fight against the defending conference champs before falling 2-1 in what was the DuPage Valley Conference opener for both schools.
With the score tied 1-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Naperville Central's Abbey Place coaxed a walk to start the inning and was sacrificed to second base on a bunt by Katie Lamich, who managed to drop the ball right in front of the plate while falling back from the inside pitch. Courtney Giebel then walked to bring up Doane, the leadoff hitter and one of the top hitters in the area.
Lake Park (2-9, 0-1) stuck with its defensive plan to play five infielders and just two outfielders for left-handed hitters and looked to pitch Doane away with right field wide open. Doane, who twice earlier lined out to left field and also doubled to deep left in the fifth, got her bat around this time and ripped a double to the gap in right center that eluded the defense and rolled under the fence for a game-ending ground-rule double.
"They were giving me room so I took it," Doane said of her winning hit off Lancers reliever Stephanie Sturino. "But I think it was just classic softball: get em on, get over, get em in. We had good eyes right in that last inning and Katie's bunt was just phenomenal. It was all self-defense but it got the job done."
For most of the game, it was the pitchers and the fielders who got the job done. The Redhawks' Keegan Hayes improved to 5-2 on the year after allowing just 1 run and 7 hits while striking out six in her complete-game victory.
For Lake Park starter Julie Baumgart limited the Redhawks to just 1 run in 4⅔ innings of work, and Sturino went the rest of the way before allowing a run in the bottom of the seventh.
Naperville Central (9-2, 1-0) went ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth after Lindsay Gonzalez led off with a double and scored on a double by Lisa Tassi. The Lancers drew even in the fifth when Ashlyn Worcester smacked a two-out double and came home on a single by Dina Falk.
Even in defeat, Lake Park coach James Chellson liked what he saw from his team on Monday.
"When teams are state-ranked and big dogs in the conference and you show you can compete with them, that's always a proud moment," he said. "I think we just have to have a big dog staring in our face. Now I just have to get this group to understand that they're all Naperville Centrals and we can come out and do this every night. I was very proud of my girls' effort."