Conant's softball players have hit an area-high 45 home runs runs this season.
They may not have put any over the fence in Thursday's 41st edition of Mid-Suburban League championship game but the Cougars showed their versatility.
They used a few extra-base hits, a few singles, steady defense and solid pitching to claim their third MSL crown in four years with a 3-0 shutout over visiting Buffalo Grove.
"The girls deserved this," said Cougars' veteran coach Cathyann Smith. "They've worked hard all season and this was their goal since the get-go."
"Now we have a new set of goals for the postseason," said senior third baseman Rachel O'Malley, the only Cougar to have played on all three title teams. "We'll work at it little by little."
That's how the Cougars' offense attacked on Thursday -- little by little.
Conant scored 1 run in the first, third and fourth innings and sophomore Kali Schumacher took care of the rest with her 6-hit shutout.
"Kali was injured the first time we played Buffalo Grove," Smith said. "She has been working so hard so we gave her the spot today and it all worked out well."
Schumacher struck out 4 and walked only 1 to improved to 7-1 as the Cougars (23-2) ended a 13-game winning streak by Buffalo Grove (19-9), which handed Conant its first loss of the season (10-9).
"I'm really proud of my whole team to be able to come back and avenge that loss," said center fielder Elisa Ambrose, the Cougars' co-captain and leadoff batter (2-for-3) who scored her team's first 2 runs. "It's really a feeling of accomplishment. We kind of defeated ourselves that first time we played them.
"We just came out stronger, hitting better and playing better defense. Buffalo Grove is a great team. We were just able to pull it out."
Ambrose led off the bottom of the first by beating out a roller in front of the plate. She went to second on DeeDee Durr's sacrifice bunt and came home on O'Malley's single to right.
Ambrose also led off the third with a single to left and came home on Durr's double to left center for a 2-0 lead.
The Mid-Suburban West champs got their final run in the fourth when Sara Neuman led off with a ground-rule double to right and came home when the next batter, Alissa Wachal, reached on an infield error.
Like she did the whole game, Bison ace Julia Camardo (16-5) kept the damage to a minimum, retiring three straight batters with two runners on base.
The junior right-hander surrendered only 5 hits and retired the final seven batters she faced.
"I told Julia after the game she is one of the toughest pitchers in our conference," Smith said. "We struggled against her and that's a credit to her. She mixes speeds and knows how to put movement on the ball. We knew we had to try and sneak anything we could to put runs on the board."
Camardo struck out 3 and walked 2 in the stellar pitchers duel between underclassmen that lasted just 90 minutes.
"We did our job defensively and Julia did an amazing job," said Bison coach Jamie Paul, whose Bison and Camardo fell to Barrington in the 2013 title game. "Julia kept them off balance and limited their scoring better than a lot of other pitchers.
"Our defense and pitching put us in a position to win but we just couldn't string the hits together."
BG's best inning was the third when Cassie May led off with a single to left followed by a bunt single by freshman Katie Fontanetta.
But the Cougars threw out a runner trying to score on a Caitlin Catino's groundball as catcher Dream Aaron made the tag.
Then, after a fly out to Ambrose and a two-out infield hit by Emily Carnes, Schumacher got out of the jam by catching a popup.
"We scored 10 runs the first time we played them but they did a god job limiting our offense this time," Paul said. "It was a tough loss because these girls have worked so hard. It was two quality teams who both deserved to win. It just wasn't our day."
Six different Bison had hits, including a single by Dea Barton and leadoff doubles by Catino (first inning) and Michelle Dublin (seventh inning).
"We'll learn from this," Paul added. "We'll use it to get ready for our regional. At then end of the day, win or lose, I'm really proud of these girls."
The Cougars committed only 1 error and received two nice plays by second baseman Telly Hunter. In the fourth, she stabbed a hard-hit one-hopper and threw from her knees to first baseman Hailey Rothstein to take away a hit from Katie Conley. She also made a nifty running catch in shallow right field on a popup. Left fielder Durr made a nice backhand grab to take away extra bases from Camardo in the sixth.
"No better way to finish the conference season," O'Malley said. "And I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else but this group of girls. I'm speechless. I just want to see us to keep playing with the same attitude and playing to our full potential."