Looking to spark the attack in extra innings, Wheaton Warrenville South had just the right hitter step to the plate on Tuesday.
The Tigers defeated Montini 4-3 in eight innings Tuesday in Wheaton in a nonconference game.
With the score tied 3-3 between the host Tigers and visiting Montini, WW South had one out in the bottom of the eighth when second baseman Jenny Harkabus walked to the plate. Harkabus had already delivered an RBI double in the first inning and later walked. This time she ripped a hard line drive that slipped past the Broncos' center fielder to put a runner in scoring position.
Maggie Graham then was hit in the helmet by a pitch and both runners moved up on a groundout to the right side, making it two outs with runners on second and third. Graham then strayed too far off second base on the next pitch, but when Montini looked to catch her, Harkabus stole home sliding with the winning run.
"I went into that situation knowing what to do," Harkabus said of her eighth-inning at-bat. "Just being up at the plate, I really love those pressure situations. I feel like it really helps me."
Harkabus' two clutch hits helped the Tigers improve to 6-6 on the year and made a winner of Maddie Briggs, who allowed 3 runs on 7 hits over 8 innings against a strong Broncos attack. Montini sophomore Amy Bukovsky also pitched well before suffering the tough loss in extra innings.
"I think both pitchers did a nice job throwing a variety of pitches, really moving the ball in and out on both sides. They were keeping hitters off balance," Tigers coach Jeff Pawlak said. "But we were able to scratch across a couple runs. (Harkabus) with that big double and then that play with the hit and run (in the third). Our slappers have been getting on and doing a good job for us."
The hosts struck first when Maya Keating beat out a bunt for a first-inning single and then came around on a Harkabus double to the gap in right center. Leadoff hitter Arianna Caldarone had an infield single and a run in the third and then delivered an RBI slap single in the fifth as the Tigers took a 3-1 lead.
But Montini (8-5) drew even at 3-3 in the fifth after a single by Isabell Alexander was followed by an error to put two runners on with no outs. After a passed ball one run scored on a groundout and Emily Lezcano tied things up with an RBI double down the right-field line. Briggs retired the next two hitters to keep the score 3-3 and set the stage for the late-inning heroics.
"I threw my changeup a lot and that usually fools a lot of hitters," said Briggs, now 4-3. "But a lot of the credit today has to go to my defense."
Broncos coach Richie Costante felt both pitchers were sharp. He just wished the same could be said for his team's execution.
"It was a good game. They battled over there and they kept us off balance," he said. "And they made all the plays they needed to and we didn't. That's what it came down to; they executed and we didn't."