Thursday's DuPage Valley Conference game was a tight affair and the result leaves the league softball standings tight as well. But one team left the field feeling high while the other has reason to be down in the dumps a little.
A young Neuqua Valley team knocked off visiting Glenbard North 6-4 behind the big bat of No. 3 hitter Abby Meeks, leaving the Wildcats in position for a share of second place in the DVC at 11-5. The Panthers, meanwhile, lost their shot at a piece of the league crown with Wednesday's loss to Metea Valley, then lost more than just a game Thursday.
The close loss to Neuqua Valley dropped the Panthers to 9-7 in conference but even worse, center fielder and No. 3 hitter Trinity Medina suffered an injury while making a great catch up against the wall.
The two-out grab in the fourth with two runners in scoring position saved at least two runs and kept Glenbard North in the contest until the final out. But Medina cut her knee on the fence and is not expected to return for next week's regionals.
"I think this team win helped us keep our mojo up and that way we can just go into regionals strong and hopefully win and go as far as we've ever gone in the playoffs," said Meeks, a sophomore, who went 4-for-4 with a home run and two doubles.
The Wildcats, with just four seniors on the roster, improved to 16-16 overall and 11-5 in the DVC heading into a Saturday nonconference twinbill with Providence Catholic. From there they'll take on Willowbrook on Monday to start the Class 4A playoffs.
"It is really exciting," said Meeks, who belted a homer during a 3-run third inning that lifted the Wildcats to a 5-1 lead. "We only have four seniors this year and we have eight juniors so next year we'll have a lot more experience and hopefully we can take first in the conference."
But first things first. If Neuqua Valley continues to play solid ball, it could lead to a fun playoff push. Senior pitcher Julia Rainer went the distance to earn the win, using a double play on a flyout to center field to end the game in the seventh after the Panthers had put the tying runners on base.
"The past couple of weeks we've been hitting like crazy," said Rainer, whose team backed her up with 13 hits. "We're really on a roll and when I go out to pitch I'm also really confident in my defense. We make great plays and then I always feel good when I go back to the dugout because I know we're going to hit."
Panthers coach Josh Sanew has seen Medina make more than her share of great plays -- along with batting around .500 this spring -- but now must head into the Conant regional minus one of his best players.
"She's played an amazing center field. She started out at shortstop for us. We started out 0-8 and we took our whole team and we moved everyone around," said Sanew, whose team's turnaround included an 11-6 finish to the regular season. "We put her in center and the girl has made unbelievable catch after unbelievable catch. Now we just lost her. She'll get stitches tonight and she'll be out a couple weeks."
In a losing effort Glenbard North's Kaitlyn Scheitler kept up her torrid pace at the plate, going 4-for-4 and finishing the DVC campaign with a batting average around .700, according to Sanew.