Softball: Freshman Furlano handcuffs St. Charles East in Lake Park’s stunning comeback win

Lake Park freshman Gianna Furlano didn’t expect to be pitching Wednesday when the Lancers took on visiting St. Charles East.

She started the game on the bench, but had to come on in relief in the very first frame as the Saints scored 6 runs in the top of the first.

Then Furlano, to say the least, made the most of her opportunity.

The frosh shut St. Charles East down the rest of the way, allowing only 1 run through 8 solid innings as the Lancers scored an unlikely 8-7 come-from-behind extra inning victory.

Furlano got a big assist from another underclassman, sophomore center fielder Reese Nolbertowicz.

Nolbertowicz threw the potential go-ahead run out at the plate in the top of the eighth, then drove in the winning run in a tense, nail-biting DuKane Conference matchup.

The Lancers hit 4 home runs to improve to 3-0 in conference, 13-0 overall.

“I just came in ready to attack the batters,” said Furlano. “I know a lot of them (the St. Charles East players), and they’re very powerful.

“I was ready, and I trusted my catcher (Ava Arenz) to make the right choices.”

Lake Park coach Lynsey Gunnells said that despite the fact her team was down 6-0 after just a half inning of play, she was still confident.

“I didn’t get nervous,” said Gunnells. “One through nine, I know our lineup can contribute, and everyone contributed today.”

St. Charles East (10-5, 1-2) starting pitcher Grace Hautzinger and teammate Maddie Royer each had 2 RBI in the first inning to help stake the visitors to the big early lead.

The Saints got a home run from Addison Wolf to increase the advantage, but Lake Park battled back with the long ball.

Arenz, Gaetana Calo, and Kylie Pytlak all blasted homers as the Lancers crept to within 7-5 after 6 innings.

Then in the bottom of the seventh, Arenz hit her second dinger, a line drive 2-run shot over the right field fence to tie the game at 7-7.

“Our girls were competitive (today),” said St. Charles East coach Jarod Gutesha. “They played a good game from start to finish.

“We got our runs early, and they (Lake Park) just started pecking away, pecking away.”

Furlano worked out of a jam in the top of the eighth when with two outs, Nolbertowicz fielded a base hit by Saints second baseman Alyse Price and fired a strike to the plate.

The perfect throw got there just in time as Arenz tagged out Saints third baseman Katie Morgan, who was trying to score from second.

“All I was thinking,” said Nolbertowicz, “was to make the throw, and then come up to bat in the bottom of the eighth and try to make another play.”

Furlano opened the Lake Park eighth with a single, and was still at first with two outs.

Then on a 3-2 count, Nolbertowicz stroked a long drive to the left center field fence.

“I just knew we had to win this game no matter what it takes,” said the sophomore. “At that point I was thinking just battle, choke up, and do whatever I could to get the ball in play.”

Furlano raced around the bases and slid into home with the winning run as she was mobbed by her teammates.

“Just run as fast as I could,” said the freshman of her mindset on the hit by Nolbertowicz. “I knew it was all coming down to this run.”

“It was amazing to come back like we did. Just pure excitement. We were a little down in the beginning but every run matters.”

Morgan had 3 hits for St. Charles East, while Calo and Arenz each drove in 3 runs for Lake Park.

“That is conference softball right there,” said Gunnells. “Gianna is becoming a great leader and she’s getting more vocal nowadays. She’s earning her spot and is just a great kid.”

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