If Maria Schroeder's soft liner had been hit 3 feet to the left, the Lake Zurich senior third baseman would have had her single. Alas, it was caught.
So Schroeder had to settle for three-quarters of a cycle in this regional title battle with Buffalo Grove on Saturday morning. She led off the Lake Zurich first with a long double. She batted again in the second inning and slammed a triple to right center. And in her last at-bat of the day at Glenbrook South, she came to plate with runners on second and third. The Bison elected to pitch to her even with first base open.
And Schroeder made BG pay when she smoked a liner over the left field wall.
It was good for a 3-run homer. Schroeder's hitting heroics backed up Olivia Schneider's 3-hit pitching as Lake Zurich (26-4) stopped Buffalo Grove 4-0.
The Bears will play again next Thursday, against Libertyville in the Stevenson sectional.
At the start of this game, it looked like Lake Zurich would dominate. Schroeder's two-bagger started the rally. Fellow senior Maddie Minneci singled Schroeder to third. Slugging freshman, and Amanda Guercio drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly to center. But then Buffalo Grove junior pitcher Julia Camardo shut the door on the Lake Zurich attack.
"That was cool,'' Camardo said. "I just tried to keep them off balance and not throw the ball right over the plate."
It was a 1-0 game for the next five innings. All the Bison (20-10) needed was 1 run. However, left-handed pitcher Schneider was too tough. She allowed all 3 hits in the first three innings. In both the second and third frames, she struck out the side. She finished with 12 strikeouts.
"I felt strong today,'' Schneider said. "I just hit my location."
Schneider got the news a week ago that she would be allowed to bring her bat to games once the regional opened.
"I just started batting,'' she said. "It's pretty exciting."
Schroeder, the hitting hero of this contest, made an impression her new coach, Amanda Rodriguez, at the start of the season.
"I put her in the No. 1 spot in the first game,'' Rodriguez said. "And in the first game, she hit one out. She's absolutely awesome."
Schroeder had almost half of her team's hits. While her teammates struggled against the offerings of Camardo, Schroeder feasted.
"We knew their pitcher likes to throw it outside and high,'' Schroeder said. "I kind of crowded the plate and it was right down the middle."
And on the ball that she put over the left field wall for her sixth homer?
"That felt really good,'' she said.
Buffalo Grove was the East Division champion of the Mid-Suburban League. And the Bison kept up with the Bears for six innings.
"Our defense in the outfield was amazing,'' Camardo said.
Rodriguez wondered where her offense went before the Schroeder blast.
"We had the bases loaded in the first and only got 1 run,'' she said. "And we kind of died at the plate."