Softball: St. Charles East completes sweep of SCN

St. Charles East senior pitcher Grace Hautzinger, watched the home run sail over the right-field fence late Wednesday afternoon.

St. Charles North junior left-hander Mackenzie Patterson drilled a one-out, solo shot that re-energized her team in the bottom of the sixth inning.

After five-plus innings of not scoring a run against Hautzinger, the North Stars were aiming to even the season series against their DuKane Conference rivals.

Momentum was on the side of the North Stars after Patterson’s moon shot.

But Hautzinger, a Rollins College recruit, relied on her impressive array of pitches to slam the door shut, retiring the next five batters to lead the Saints to a 5-1 victory over the North Stars.

The Saints (16-11, 6-5) have turned their season around in a two-game span, ending a six-game losing streak — mainly against a loaded schedule — by knocking off Lake Park 3-0 on Monday and then adding their second win of the season over the North Stars (16-4, 8-3).

“Well, it was frustrating to give up a (homer) because we were only winning 2-0 at the time, so I really wanted to lock it down,” Hautzinger said. “Giving it up gave me more motivation to pitch better, and I feel I did after that.”

Hautzinger tossed a complete game five-hitter, striking out eight and only allowing the solo homer. Even Hautzinger, who pitched in the 4-3 win over St. Charles North on April 19, said there’s something about facing their crosstown rivals that brings out the best in the Saints.

“It’s always been a great game to play them ever since I was a freshman you see them on the schedule and that’s our game,” Hautzinger said. “We all look forward to this game.”

Hautzinger said her changeup was the key pitch for her against the North Stars.

“The last couple of games the changeup has been really helpful getting the grounders and popups and little bloops in the outfield,” Hautzinger said. “My rise ball felt good and my curve definitely looked good.”

St. Charles East junior Alyse Price provided some insurance with a two-run homer over the right-center field fence for a 4-1 lead in the top of the seventh. Price raised her season total to four home runs.

Sophomore Hayden Sujack, who hit a solo homer in the fourth inning, added an RBI single to lift the lead to 5-1. The North Stars had five hits in the seventh, as junior Addison Wolf also added two hits to pace the Saints. Sujack’s home run was her eighth of the season.

“It felt really good,” Price said. “I didn’t go up there thinking to hit a home run. We seem to really come together against them because they are our rivals. This win feels really good. This game showed us that we are going to be fine.”

Hautzinger said the tough schedule should prepare the Saints for the playoffs. The Saints lost three games on Saturday, falling to Marengo, Cary-Grove and Huntley before beating Lake Park in a key conference game.

“We lost six in a row, but we really wanted to come together as a team,” Hautzinger said. “We had a talk and we knew we had to come together. As seniors, we had to be the leaders. We put it together and had a really good game against Lake Park and proved it against (St. Charles North).”

St. Charles East coach Jarod Gutesha said his team must build off their two-game winning streak heading into Thursday’s home game against Batavia followed up by conference clashes versus Geneva and Wheaton Warrenville South.

“We’ve played a tough schedule that you want to challenge you,” he said. “There were times when it wasn’t fun. We lost six in a row, but every time you have a game when you don’t win, you look at what you can do differently as an individual and what to do to contribute to the team. We’ve learned a lot. They are playing with confidence. We’re moving in the right direction.”

St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin admitted it was a tough home loss for his program, especially since two of his team’s four losses have come against the Saints. St. Charles North right-hander Paige Murray picked up the loss despite pitching all seven innings.

“You have to take your hat off to St. Charles East,” Poulin said. “They were the better team. They had a better approach at the plate, Grace was on top of her game. I was just really disappointed in our approach and what we worked on yesterday to get ready for this game. It didn’t look like we prepared for this game. We still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the postseason. It’s a logjam in the conference (standings).”

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