Things got tense in Monday's Mid-Suburban West softball showdown when Schaumburg rallied for 2 runs to tie the game in the top of the fourth inning.
The Cougars had not scored since the first inning when Alissa Wachal stepped into the batter's box to lead of the bottom half of the fourth.
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"I felt like I needed to do something," she said. "We needed to get going again because we were kind of down at that point."
So how did Wachal remedy the situation?
The junior right fielder belted her sixth home run of the season over the left-center field fence and it proved to be the game-winning RBI in the Cougars' 4-2 triumph.
"Alissa Wachal's home run (the team's 45th of the season) was a great answer to their 2 runs," said Cougars coach Cathyann Smith, whose Cougars clinched their third MSL West crown in four years and will host Buffalo Grove (19-8, 13-3) on Thursday for the MSL title.
"It's amazing," said senior third baseman Rachel O'Malley, who has played on all three of the Cougars' championship teams. "I wouldn't want to end the regular season any other way than playing for the conference championship with these girls. It's awesome the energy this group of girls has this season."
The Cougars (22-2, 14-2) and sophomore pitcher Sara Neumann (11-0) was really energized early by senior second baseman Telly Hunter.
She dove to her left and flipped to first baseman Hailey Rothstein to rob Shannon Felde off a base hit in the top of the first.
"I have to thank my defense," said Neuman, who notched the win with a 6-hitter and 2 strikeouts. "We were struggling (after loss to Fremd on Saturday) but we came back and did what we had to do. It started with that play by Telly and then we took it from there."
The Cougars took advantage of 5 walks in the bottom of the first inning to score twice, with Hunter and Neuman drawing RBI walks.
The Saxons (21-8, 11-4), though, battled back and tied the game in the top of the fourth when catcher Elaine Walker led off with a single to left.
She went to second on Sarah Schwind's sacrifice bunt. Pitcher Shannon Felde then reached on an infield hit for runners on the corners.
First baseman Paige Alt followed with a RBI single and an error on the play allowed both runners to score.
Neuman got out of the inning with a flyball out to Wachal and groundout to freshman shortstop Lauren Grzelak.
The Cougars got their insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Neuman led off with a walk and Wachal singled to center.
Rachel Falbo then put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to get the runners to second and third before Elisa Ambrose's sacrifice fly to center scored Neuman.
"It was nice to get in front with Alissa's home run but we knew we had to keep hitting," Ambrose said. "We didn't want to be complacent with a 1-run lead."
"Rachel's pinch-hit bunt was a huge spark," Smith said of Falbo's bat work. "Defensively, Sara was great on the mound and Rachel O'Malley was a leader the whole game. Having her at third base is the key to our solid defense."
Other than Wachal (2-for-3), Ambrose was the only other multiple hitter for Conant as she went 2-for-2 with a double, walk and sacrifice fly.
"It's awesome," Ambrose said of the West crown. "There's no feeling like it when you can be a consistently good team. "
Felde (9-4) threw a 5-hitter with 8 strikeouts.
"Shannon is a real tough pitcher," Smith said. "She's got speed and she's got movement. But we knew if were patient enough, things could fall in place.
"Everyone stepped up. Everyone knew their job and we had the patience to see it through for seven innings."
Walker (2-for-3) and Roxanne Kakareka (2-for-3) each had leadoff doubles in different innings.
Neuman escaped without a run both times, the first on a nifty 6-3-5 double play.
Grzelak threw to Rothstein, who threw a perfect strike across the infield to O'Malley who tagged the runner to end the top of the third..
"It was a good, close game," said Saxons coach Ellen Abreu. "We competed. We put the ball in play and came back to tie the game.
"I'm proud of the girls. They battled and played tough. They never let down. We had opportunities. We just fell a little short."