Burlington Central softball coach Wade Maisto has been saying since early March he likes the fact his team has two top-notch pitchers.
And while the Rockets' overall record this season may not be as stellar as it was last year at this time, and while they may have lost out on defending their Big Northern East conference title, Maisto knows getting continued strong performances from senior Brooke Gaylord and sophomore Emily Kisch will give BC its best chance to advance in the postseason, which starts May 26.
In a nonconference doubleheader at Huntley Saturday, Gaylord, Kisch and their teammates showed they just might be ready to peak at the right time.
Shaking off Thursday's tough loss to Marengo in what amounted to the BN-East championship game, Gaylord allowed only 1 earned run then Kisch came back with a shutout as the Rockets swept Huntley 8-4 and 5-0.
"Now we can focus on getting ready for the postseason," said Maisto. "We're using these opportunities to see who wants to step up and be in the lineup come postseason time.
"Brooke and Emily both pitched very well today. It was a good day to come up here to (Huntley's) field and win both games. Huntley is right in the thick of their conference race and they have a nice team. This should help us regain some confidence."
The Rockets (15-7) scored all their runs in Game 1 in the first four innings, 2 in each, to take an 8-3 lead Huntley (14-10) couldn't recover from. Senior leadoff hitter Bekah Harnish went 3-for-4 with a double and 3 RBI, senior Courtni Neubauer was 2-for-4 and Kassie Gaylord had 2 hits for the Rockets, who rapped out 11 hits off Huntley's Haley Spannraft (7-6). BC overcame 5 errors as Huntley left 8 runners on base.
"I felt good even though we made a few errors, including myself," said Brooke Gaylord, who struck out 6, didn't walk a batter and allowed 8 hits in running her record to 7-4. "I have confidence in my team. We didn't get down on ourselves even though we had a rough start."
Huntley's 3 runs in the first two innings were unearned as the Rockets made 3 of their errors in those two Red Raider at-bats. Spannraft had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and Shannon Walsh (3-for-4) drove in a run with an infield single in the second.
Megan Larson accounted for the Red Raiders' fourth run with a solo home run in the seventh. Senior Angela Tribuzio had a double for Huntley and Taylor Stone added 2 hits.
In Game 2, Central jumped ahead 5-0 after three innings and played errorless defense behind Kisch (7-3), who struck out 5 and walked 1 while allowing 5 hits. Senior Tori Harvey had a 2-run single in the first inning and an RBI bunt single in the third to lead the offense.
"I felt more confident in my curveball today," said Kisch. "I didn't feel real good with my changeup but I felt good spotting the fastball and the curveball. We regained a lot of confidence today. Huntley is a good team."
Three of the Rockets' 5 runs in Game 2 came as a result of Huntley errors. Freshman Kateri Conklin struck out 10, walked 1, hit 2 batters and allowed just 3 hits but suffered the loss for the Raiders.
"You can't give them too many extra opportunities," said Huntley coach Mark Petryniec, whose team plays at McHenry Monday in a game that's for sole possession of first place in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division. "We made some defensive mistakes and they took advantage."
Larson had a double and Walsh added 2 hits in the second game for Huntley, which lost its third straight.