Taking care of the business at hand was the priority for the Burlington Central softball team Wednesday, and the Rockets did just that with a 5-1 win over Genoa-Kingston at windswept Rocket Hill in a game delayed 37 minutes at the start by lightning.
That will also be Central's priority Thursday when, for all intents and purposes, the Big Northern East championship will be on the line as Marengo comes calling, with its intention being to take the conference title away from the defending champs.
"This is it," said Central coach Wade Maisto, whose team lost to Marengo 4-2 on April 21, snapping BC's 26-game conference winning streak. "We need to come out like it's a regional championship or a tournament championship. We have to come out with a purpose."
The Rockets (13-6, 8-1), who won their fifth straight, did just that on Wednesday. They took advantage of 5 G-K errors and a "punched" 2-run home run from senior catcher Bekah Harnish to jump to a 5-0 lead after two innings.
"The swing right before (the home run) didn't feel right to I decided to switch it up and focus more on mechanics," said the Northern Illinois-bound Harnish of her shot over the right-centerfield fence.
Sophomore Emily Kisch allowed just 3 hits and had 8 strikeouts in her 5 innings of work and worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fourth inning to keep the Cogs (12-7, 3-4) off the scoreboard. Genoa scored its only run of the game in the top of the seventh on a double steal. Senior Brooke Gaylord pitched the final 2 innings for BC.
"Kisch threw a really good game," said Harnish. "They were both hitting their spots."
Central opened the scoring in the bottom of the first without a hit. Courtni Neubauer drew a one-out walk and went to third on Kisch's double to center. Neubauer then scored when the Genoa catcher made a throwing error returning a pitch to Baylie Ulmark in the circle.
Becca Gerke reached on a two-base outfield error to lead off the bottom of the second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt from Kelly Wiater (2-for-2, 3B) and scored on a perfect squeeze bunt from Christina Ahlers, who was safe at first on the play. Harnish then launched her round-tripper to make it 4-0. Kisch reached on an infield error and after a Gaylord single, another Genoa error allowed Kisch to score.
"We needed a good game today," said Maisto, whose team beat North Boone, Harvard and Rockford Christian (twice) by a combined 73-2 since the loss to Marengo. "It was nice to see good pitching, get quality at-bats and make plays. We came out with nice energy and the defense played real well."
And it's energy the Rockets hope to have against Marengo on Thursday.
"Everyone knows the goal," Harnish said. "Come back and beat (Marengo)."
Doing that would likely give the Rockets and Indians, who have dominated the BN-East for well over 10 years, a share of the title.
"We can't overlook the other (conference) games we have left but this one is really it," Maisto said. "We'd sure rather tie than finish second."