It's been a long road full of obstacles for Julia Barnes to get her first win for Burlington Central, so what was one more inning?
Barnes, a junior whose first two years with the Rockets were derailed by injuries, pitched Burlington Central to a 2-1 lead Monday at Kaneland only to see the Knights rally to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Barnes' catcher Lindsay Jamrozek had the answer in the top of the eighth, capping her own big day at the plate with a 2-run single up the middle and making a winner of Barnes, 4-2 over the Knights in the season opener for both teams.
"I'm just excited to be back, just glad to finally being able to play softball for the high school," said Barnes, who injured her wrist in a snowmobile accident as a freshman and tore her ACL playing basketball as a sophomore. "It was really hard to go through and watch everyone play and me sitting watching from the sidelines.
"I was a little nervous the first two innings (today) but it was fun."
Barnes walked 3 batters over the first 2 innings before settling down. Kaneland (0-1) capitalized in the first when Morgan Weber walked, stole second and scored on a throwing error.
Burlington Central (1-0) tied the game 1-1 in the fourth against Kaneland starter Aly Jesionowski. Danielle Yurgil singled and scored on a double by Jamrozek, the first of three straight run-scoring hits by the sophomore.
"I was feeling good when I stepped into the box," Jamrozek said. "We practice hitting a lot. I knew we had some fast runners on. I was just thinking get the ball down and they would make something out of it which they did."
Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler brought in freshman pitcher Emilee Erickson in the top of the fifth. She pitched a scoreless inning before the Rockets grabbed a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Yurgil walked and scored on Jamrozek's line single.
The Knights rallied in the bottom of the seventh, and it took a gutsy effort by Barnes to keep Kaneland from winning it. Weber singled and took third when the Rockets threw away a grounder off the bat of Jesionowski.
Weber scored on a bunt by Hannah Theobald tying the game at 2. After a walk to Donny Sommesi, Kaneland had the bases loaded with no outs but could not push across the winning run as Barnes induced three straight soft infield liners and popouts.
"I was just trying to take one batter at a time, one pitch at a time and make sure they didn't hit it hard," Barnes said.
"I knew Julia would come through in the clutch," Jamrozek said. "She's a really good pitcher. Having her hit those spots really helped us."
It was a frustrating inning for the Knights, who finished with 5 hits on the day including 2 by Maddy Wheatley.
"Looking back I thought we had it," Kuefler said. "Couple infield flyballs. It is what it is. We had a good talk and all the girls understand as long as we are moving forward and learning from our mistakes from this game we'll be just fine."
Gretchen Schrubbe started the winning rally in the eighth with a single. Yurgil was hit by a pitch and Barnes bunted them over before Jamrozek capped her 3-for-4, 4-RBI day with a 2-run single.
Abby Sanders pitched the bottom of the eighth for the save.
"It was a little more neryerve-racking than I would liked, but it's good," Burlington Central coach Erica Snyder said. "I love these games. They did such a good job. It's very easy to let one thing spiral but bases loaded they buckled down and got the job done. I was really proud of them."