Breaking News Bar
updated: 5/31/2014 9:52 PM

Conant outslugs Schaumburg in a classic

Success - Article sent! close

This one lived up to everyone's expectations.

After two close battles during the Mid-Suburban West season with Conant edging Schaumburg by 2 runs each time, Saturday's encounter between the softball powerhouses figured to be a close again with plenty of action.

Sure enough, the bats were flying in a back-and-forth battle that went the Cougars' way for a third time.

The twist and turns finally ended with junior DeeDee Durr's two-out line drive single to left which scored freshman Lauren Grzelak from second base for the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

With the tense 9-8 victory, the No. 2 seeded Cougars (25-5) advanced to the Bartlett sectional. They will face No. 3 St. Charles East (30-6) in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Oh my gosh, we're still alive," said four-year starter Rachel O'Malley, who also played on the Cougars' regional championship team in 2012.

"DeeDee kept us alive. She was definitely the MVP this game. She's been the MVP a lot of games. The great thing about this team, though, is we've had a lot of MVPs all season. I don't have to worry about being a captain. I know everyone has my back."

Durr's first game-changing hit came just one inning earlier. Her 2-run double to center gave the Cougars a 7-5 lead after their 5-run sixth inning.

"That double gave me some confidence (when batting in the seventh)," Durr said. "But I knew I had to get something done with two outs. I couldn't leave those runners on base."

Durr (3-for-5), Elisa Ambrose (3-for-5) and Dream Aaron (2-for-4) each ended up with 3 RBI as Cougars sophomore Sara Neuman (12-2) pitched the final 2⅓ innings to notch the win in relief of classmate Kali Schumacher.

Saxons pitcher Shannon Felde (12-5) recorded a huge strikeout to end the sixth inning when the Cougars still had the bases loaded.

"My heart was racing the whole game," said Saxons coach Ellen Abreu, whose team (26-9) had single-digit losses for the first time in her four seasons. " It was just an intense game.

"Shannon (7 strikeouts) pitched a great game. It's not too often you get games with a score like 9-8. It's a testament to both teams' hitting. And there was good defense."

O'Malley (2-for-3) had her usual stellar defensive game at third base, collecting 4 assists, and Alissa Wachal (3 walks) made a nice diving catch in right field to rob Felde in the first inning.

"It's hard beating any team three times let alone a team as solid and great as Schaumburg," O'Malley said. "They're just such athletes. I almost hate to see them have to lose because they're such a great club. They don't deserve to have to go home this early in the tournament."

The excitement began right off the bat as Schaumburg scored twice in the first inning on the first of sophomore Paige Alt's 2 home runs.

The first baseman hit the first pitch she saw for a 2-run blast over the center field fence with two outs and Elaine Walker on base.

The Cougars answered with 2 in the bottom of the inning when Aaron's one-out single to left drove home Durr (single) and O'Malley (double to left).

Conant edged ahead 3-2 in the second.

Ambrose singled up the middle with two outs to score Neuman, who had drawn a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third on Rachel Falbo's sacrifice bunt.

The Saxons got the momentum back in the top of the fifth., putting up 3 more runs.

Pinch hitter Michelle Birkholz, a freshman, started the rally with a single to right-center.

"That was a great job by Michelle," Abreu said. "It's tough coming off the bench cold like that."

Felde (2-for-4, 3 RBI), Alt (3-for-4, 3 RBI) and Christina Candotti (2-for-4) collected consecutive two-out RBI singles later in the inning for the 5-3 advantage.

The Cougars sent only three batters to the plate in their scoreless fifth inning (catcher Walker threw to Candotti to catch a runner stealing), but then exploded for the 5-run sixth.

The Cougars took advantage of walks to Wachal, Falbo and Grezelak to load the bases with two outs.

"Lauren (Grzelak) getting that two-out walk (to load the bases) was a huge part of the game," said Cougars coach Cathyann Smith. "As a freshman, that showed a lot of maturity for her in that situation."

Ambrose then delivered a 2-run single to right to tie the game before Durr's big double made it 7-5.

Aaron capped the rally with a bloop double to shallow left for the 8-5 lead.

But Schaumburg had another answer, bringing out more of the big bats.

Sarah Schwind opened the seventh with a single to right, and Alt then belted her second homer over the center field fence, cutting the lead to 8-7.

Felde followed with a homer over the center field fence to tie the game -- and the Saxons still had no outs.

But Neuman beared down and retired the next three batters. That set up the bottom of the inning for Durr's game-winner.

"We kept switching momentum," Durr said. " "But we came together when we needed to.

"We were nervous coming into the game. We knew it would be hard. This was our best battle of the season."

"Every piece of the puzzle came together," said Smith, who won her third regional title in 14 seasons. "The girls fought and never gave up.

"I knew this would be a hard battle, and we talked about bringing it every game and leaving it all on the field. That's exactly what the girls did. We had a lot of respect for Schaumburg. They can hit. They can pitch. They can field. Our girls fought hard for this."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.