Softball: Lake Park goes 12 innings in wild win over Glenbard North

With the way each pitcher was throwing and with players all over the diamond making highlight reel plays, it seemed as if the softball contest between unbeaten Lake Park and host Glenbard North might not ever come to a conclusion on Friday.

The DuKane Conference battle did eventually come to an end with the Lancers prevailing 4-2 in 12 innings in a game that both pitchers deserved not to lose, and a game in which both sides had chances to come out on top.

In the end, Lake Park junior Ava Arenz was the hitting star and freshman pitcher Gianna Furlano improved her record to 7-0. But not before the 14-0 Lancers turned in several fielding gems and survived a near walk-off home run by the Panthers Gia Whelan, who crushed a deep shot in the bottom of the 11th that cleared the fence in left field but hooked foul.

“It was really crazy,” said Furlano, who scattered seven hits over 12 innings on Friday. “It was very close for a long time. It kept going. I felt like I did the best I could, but I’ve never pitched this long a game before.”

Sophomore center fielder Reese Nolbertowicz made several diving catches in the game, shortstop Ariana O’Connell flashed a strong arm on several assists from the hole, and the rest of the infielders on both sides took turns making big plays in the tight affair.

“She’s amazing,” Furlano said of her center fielder, whose diving grab robbed the Panthers leadoff hitter in the 10th, helping to extend the game. “We have a great defense. They did some amazing plays today to help me so much and I’m very proud of them.”

Panthers starter Avery Miller matched Furlano inning for inning until the 12th. She kept the Lancers off balance with a sneaky changeup and allowed eight hits over 12 innings against a potent attack. Neither team scored through 5 innings before each side scored a run in the sixth.

Glenbard North (5-6, 2-2) then took a 2-1 lead on a sac fly by Ava Kozlovsky in the bottom of the sixth and was one out away from winning before O’Connell reached on a fly ball that eluded the right fielder and then came home with the tying run on a double down the left field line off the bat of Arenz, who would later deliver an even bigger hit.

With the score still tied at 2-2 in the top of the 12th, Sofia Zepeda started the inning with a single and Gabriella Motisi then reached when her sac bunt attempt spun away from the catcher putting two runners on with no outs. One out later Arenz doubled to center to break the 2-2 tie, but the Panthers did throw out a second runner at the plate on the play. Kylie Pytak then drove home an insurance run with a single to right.

The Panthers went down in order in the bottom of the 12th to suffer the tough loss.

“I’m really proud of the way our girls played on defense,” Glenbard North assistant coach Maggie Quinn said. “We played a great game and they played a sound game defensively, it’s fun to see that. We see that a lot in this conference. That game made us better. I’m proud of the way the girls hung in.”

Lake Park coach Lynsey Gunnells was happy to have survived a wild one.

“Oh man, that’s conference softball to a T right there. Our conference is so competitive,” Gunnells said. “It could have gone either way, but Gianna Furlano, our freshman on the mound, had that bulldog mentality and our defense was there to back her up.

“This is our Friday night Lights right here. It was awesome.”

Arenz finished 2-for-6 with 2 RBI and two of the biggest hits on the day. 

“I feel like I’ve really stepped up for my teammates when we’ve needed it the most,” she said. “Just being there for my teammates, getting hits and getting on base so they can hit me in. I mean I have full confidence in Kylie [Pytlak] and Alex [Kiefer] behind me that they’ll hit me in any day.”

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