The hits and runs keep coming for the St. Charles North softball team -- and so do the wins.
The North Stars scored 7 runs in the first inning and 6 in the second, then used the final three innings to get everyone playing time in a 16-2 win Wednesday at Batavia.
The victory keeps St. Charles North (18-6, 14-2) a half-game behind St. Charles East (25-5, 15-2) in yet another down-to-the-wire Upstate Eight Conference River Division race.
The North Stars and Saints will settle things next Tuesday in their second meeting of the season -- with a third matchup a possibility a couple weeks later in the Class 4A Bartlett sectional championship game.
There's a ways to go to get to that, but the way the two talented and experienced St. Charles teams are playing it certainly could happen.
"We've been hitting the ball really well as of late," said North Stars assistant coach Thijs Dennison, filling in for the under-the-weather head coach Tom Poulin. "One through nine we are clicking. We've been working on swinging at our pitch and making the pitcher work."
That patient approach worked in the first two innings when the North Stars' 13 runs came on just 8 hits. They drew eight walks.
St. Charles North sent 12 batters to the plate in both the first and second innings. Sabrina Rabin led off the game with a triple to deep right-center, then drove in two runs later in the inning with a double off the fence in nearly the same spot 230 feet away as the Northwestern recruit just missed her first home run of the season.
"That's OK," Rabin said. "So far, so good. We're having some quality at-bats. If you have good at-bats you are going to get some runs. Hopefully we'll keep it up."
After Mickey Goetz singled home Rabin and Alex Millett doubled in Goetz, Erin Nemetz drew the first of her three walks in her three at-bats. Abi Ginther dropped in a 2-run double to left field, and Rabin capped the inning with her 2-run double.
Abby Howlett kept the hits coming in the second with a leadoff home run, her third of the season and second in as many days.
"It was outside, being two strikes I was thinking protect the plate and hit it away," the Northern Illinois-bound Howlett said. "I feel I'm definitely in a better groove than I was at the beginning of the season. I am trying to wait on the ball and drive it the other way."
The North Stars led 13-0 by the time the second inning was over. Rabin drove in two more with a single and Goetz added her second RBI single.
Dennison started going to his bench at that point, putting Katie Roggemann in to pitch after Rabin pitched a scoreless first inning aided by a flashy Kaitlyn Waslawski-to-Goetz-to-Howlett 4-6-3 double play.
Batavia (8-17, 6-10) scored its only two runs against Roggemann in the third, a rally started when Ryanne Rokos rocketed a triple similar to Rabin's earlier. The Bulldogs followed with consecutive singles from Toni Galas, Ashley McNamara and Natalie Offutt before Roggemann escaped further damage with a strikeout to leave the bases loaded.
Rabin finished 3-for-3 with 4 RBI in just 2 innings. Goetz and Howlett also had 2 hits while Sam Hausl and Delaney Olinger were among the North Stars who came off the bench with hits.
"That was my goal," Dennison said. "I talked to coach today and he said if we are hitting the ball well let's get everybody in and we were able to do that. Even the ones who came in hit the ball hard today."
Batavia started sophomore Alyssa Klemm, then turned to freshman Rachael Lovestrand with two outs and the bases loaded in the first.
Lovestrand, making her return to the circle after missing a couple weeks with a concussion, got out of the first but left with one out in the second. Klemm came back in and finished the final 3 2/3 innings, holding the North Stars scoreless in the third and fifth.
"They are a good team. They hit the ball hard," Batavia coach Lupe Castellanos said. "I know what they bring to the table. We have to come out and try to play defense right away. If you make a mistake between hard-hit balls they are going to score a lot of runs. It's hard to come back against a team like that when you fall behind like that."