St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said he could not remember the last time the wind blew out on the North Stars' home field, which turned out to be the only thing between Northern Illinois-bound Abby Howlett and a grand slam Friday against Batavia.
Howlett had to settle for about the longest single you will see, a ball that hit high off the left-field fence and drove in two runs and helped the North Stars break open a 2-0 game on their way to a 6-0 victory.
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Playing without freshman pitcher Rachael Lovestrand with a head injury that is being checked for a possible concussion, Batavia (6-12, 4-8) turned to Alyssa Klemm.
The sophomore kept St. Charles North (13-6, 9-2) off-balance and held the North Stars to one unearned run through three innings.
The North Stars turned to small ball in the fourth with freshman Jordyn Wolfe leading off with a bunt single and Sabrina Rabin also reaching on a bunt single. Mickey Goetz drove in Wolfe with an infield single, then when Batavia couldn't handle Alex Millett's grounder the bases were loaded for Howlett.
The sweet-swinging lefty launched a high fly to deep right that nearly hit the Batavia logo on the left-field fence. Two runs scored on the play for a 4-0 lead.
"If the wind wasn't knocking it down she would have had a grand slam," Poulin said. "That was good contact in a spot we needed it. We needed someone to inject some life into us."
The North Stars' three-run fourth inning came after Batavia's best chance to score against Sabrina Rabin. Toni Galas led off with an infield single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Christina Karius.
Rabin hit Natalie Offutt with a pitch and walked Ashley McNamara to load the bases with one out, then quickly settled down and struck out the next two hitters to leave the bases loaded.
"I just stayed calm because I knew if I just hit my spots I had a good chance of my team making a play behind me or me getting the outs," Rabin said. "You can't panic."
While crediting Rabin for hitting her spots, Batavia coach Lupe Castellanos also wanted a better approach from his hitters in that key spot.
"When you have the bases loaded sometimes we put a little more pressure on ourselves to do something," Castellanos said. "I think in that situation you have to put the pressure on them. I think we tried to do too much, overswung too much and ended up not having a good at-bat."
Batavia only got more baserunner after the fourth, McNamara's single in the seventh. Rabin finished with 11 strikeouts while waking just one in her 2-hit shutout. She struck out the side in the second and sixth.
"She has pitched very well the last couple games," Poulin said. "She has pitched well all year. We haven't helped her out at crucial times. She has been a hard-luck loser in a lot of her losses. But she just stays positive and continues to believe in everybody. She's as good as it gets as far as a teammate goes and as far as a player. She's been very sharp. That's huge for us going forward."
The North Stars scored their final two runs in the sixth. Goetz led off with a single and reached third on Millett's double.
Howlett made it a 5-0 game with an RBI groundout before Erin Nemetz concluded the scoring by lining an RBI single to left center.
Goetz, Millett, Nemetz and Wolfe all had 2 hits. Howlett drove in 3 runs.
The win capped a short but successful week for the North Stars who also defeated St. Charles East. They are off this weekend with prom.
"I think we are getting momentum each time," Rabin said. "There's always things we can improve on and we are making adjustments. Hopefully we keep making adjustments and we can keep on going."
Castellanos said he isn't sure when Lovestrand will return. The Bulldogs travel to Marengo Saturday for a six-team tournament with games against Rockton Hononegah and Plainfield Central in pool play.
"Our defense did a lot better job today compared to (Wednesday's game vs.) St. Charles East," Castellanos said. "Alyssa moved the ball around well, kept them off-balance. North is a good team. Players have to step and I thought Alyssa did a nice job stepping up today."