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updated: 5/28/2014 10:06 PM

Conant manufactures a victory

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Sure, Conant's softball team has belted a school-record 49 homers this season.

But don't think for a second that's the Cougars' game plan.

"They might go over the fence, but that's not our goal," said Rachel O'Malley who has sent a team-high 11 over the fence this spring. "We're a small-ball team. Our goal is to get on first base any way we can."

"Sixty feet at a time," echoed Dream Aaron, the Cougars' sophomore catcher. "That's our real motto."

And the No. 2 seeded Cougars lived up to that philosophy in the final inning of their 4-3 victory over No. 15 Lake Park in the Class 4A Hoffman Estate regional semifinal.

The game was suspended on Tuesday with the score tied 3-3 in the top of the seventh inning.

It resumed on Wednesday when winning pitcher Kali Schumacher (8-2) retired the Lancers in order in the top of the seventh.

Cougars freshman Lauren Grzelak singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh and then advanced base by base to reach home and give the Mid-Suburban League champions a berth in the title game.

The No. 2 Cougars (24-5) will face No. 7 Schaumburg (26-8) at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Grzelak led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right.

She advanced to second and third on sacrifice bunts by Elisa Ambrose and DeeDee Durr and then came home on the game-winning RBI single to left by O'Malley.

"It was so fitting for Rachel to have that hit because she had struggled at the start of the game," said Cougars coach CathyAnn Smith. "She's a senior and our four-year leader. She just wants to get everyone ready to go for the postseason."

O'Malley's clutch two-out single got the teams off the field in less than ten minutes.

"Dream Aaron helped us come alive and Rachel finished it off," said Smith, referring to Aaron's home run in the sixth inning which tied the game at 3-3.

It was actually Aaron's second homer of the game. She also hit solo blast in the fourth which came after Hailey Rothstein's homer in the second.

All three homers led off innings.

"It was those home runs," O'Malley said that made the difference. "We wouldn't be playing the next game if it weren't for Dream and Hailey's home runs."

Lake Park (13-21) jumped ahead 2-0 in the second inning with a 2-run single by Frannie Catalano and then went ahead 3-1 in the top of the fourth on Stephanie Sturino's home run over the left field fence.

"We had the game in our hands," said Lancers coach James Chellson. "They (Conant) battled back and chipped away. That's what great teams do."

Karley Wolf, Jordan Dallmann and Taylor Barton also had hits for the Lancers, who had dropped a doubleheader to Conant earlier in the season 9-1 and 12-2.

"I think this showed that we can compete with a lot of the top teams in the state," Chellson said. "It's a luxury to have great teams like Glenbard North and Naperville Central in your conference. That helps you to compete against teams like Conant."

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