Sam McLean struck out in her first at-bat and made an error late in the game that cost her Gators a run. The senior made up for it in a big way, however, by driving in 5 runs and powering Crystal Lake South's softball team to a 9-2 win over Huntley at The Ballpark in Rosemont Friday night.
Huntley drove in the first run of the game thanks to a Brittany Koss double to score Shannon Walsh, who had walked and promptly stole two bases to give her 32 on the year, but the Gators (14-10, 7-5 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division) looked poised to strike back quickly.
After loading the bases with two outs and coming up short in the first, the Gators found themselves with a runner in scoring position and one out, this time capitalizing against Huntley freshman pitcher Kateri Conklin.
Erin Yazel singled home the first run for Crystal Lake South, the first of two on the day for her, and after a Kim Woods bunt attempt hit her in the box, McLean came up looking for revenge on a strike out in her last at-bat.
"I try to not get into my own head," McLean said. "When I go up like that and strike out right away I tend to let it get to me. Just going up there and letting it go has been really helping me this year."
McLean let it go to right-center field, blasting a 2-run double to score Amy Ciavarella and Yazel and put the Gators on top for good.
A similar situation would present itself to McLean in both the fourth and fifth innings with runners in scoring position and two outs. She would come up big in both, singling both times and plating one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Scott Busam, the Gators' head coach, had high praise for his shortstop, saying she was one of the "best players" he has coached.
"You don't have to over-coach Sam. I think Sam is one of the elite players in the entire area, and one of the best players I've coached in 13 years," Busam said. "She is just a smart softball player. I can't really think of anyone else I would rather have up in that situation with runners on and two outs."
McLean finished with those 5 RBI and a run scored, but on the field she had help in the circle from junior pitcher Hailee Massie. Massie finished with just 1 strikeout and 3 walks, but held the Red Raiders to just 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits scattered over 7 innings for her fifth win of the year.
"What she's done really well with this year is her control and command," Busam said of his pitcher. "It really came down to her understanding that she needs to let her defense play."
On the other side of the mound, Conklin went the distance but walked 5 batters while striking out 3. She gave up 13 hits and 9 runs, 7 of which were earned.
The Red Raiders (15-12, 6-4) made a couple of errors behind Conklin that led to the unearned runs, something head coach Mark Petryniec has seen a lot of this year.
"When we make defensive miscues, and we make that many, it's going to be hard to win many ballgames," Petryniec said. "That's been the story all season. If we don't make those mistakes then we are a tough team to beat. Hats off to Crystal Lake, they came in hungry and they wanted it and it showed."
Katelyn Bahrens would double home Michelle Caputi in the sixth inning for the Red Raiders to cut the lead to 7, but they would get no closer.
Of the 9 runs for the Gators, 8 would come with two outs. Woods had a double and scored twice while Massie had 2 hits and drove in a run.