Softball: Spencer's gem lifts Downers South over York
Jordyn Spencer savored a bag of red Twizzlers as she walked to the Downers Grove South bus Wednesday.
A reward for a job well done? Not necessarily. It's Spencer's usual postgame snack.
This was a pretty sweet win, though.
Spencer, a Downers Grove South senior, struck out nine in a complete-game one-hitter, winning a dandy of a pitcher's duel with York senior Lauren Derkowski 1-0 in a matchup of the top teams from the respective divisions of the West Suburban Conference in Elmhurst.
The game was a resumption of a May 15 contest in Downers Grove suspended after two innings because of rain, and the Mustangs leading 1-0.
Neither pitcher budged in the game's completion, each team managing just one baserunner Wednesday. The teams could meet again in two weeks, in a sectional semifinal.
"It was a huge win," said Spencer, who will play collegiately at Aurora University. "It will really give us that confidence boost to do well going into the playoffs."
Spencer (14-3) was primarily Downers Grove South's JV pitcher two years ago, the last time the IHSA held a softball postseason, when the Mustangs reached a sectional final. Derkowski, meanwhile, is recognized as one of the state's best pitchers, a Michigan recruit who led York to state as a freshman.
Spencer, for her own part, did not dwell on her opponent in the circle.
Spencer retired 12 batters in a row after Emily Fujiwara's second-inning single, the only other blemish coming when Emily Kunst reached on an error to start York's sixth inning. Spencer's effective drop ball got hitters swinging, and also a few called third strikes.
"I just approached it like I do every other game," Spencer said. "I just get myself in the right mental state on the bus. My teammates really do help me out, they always cheer me on. Just have to stay positive."
Mustangs' coach Jim Cushing was impressed with how Spencer bounced back from a rough outing Monday, a 6-3 loss to Neuqua Valley.
"She pitched a heck of a game," Cushing said. "She came off a tough game with Neuqua but to her credit she put that out of her mind and pitched her heart out today. Keeping the ball down helps, the wind blowing in helps, I thought [York] was a little off today. They're a better hitting team than that."
Derkowski (14-1) dropped her first decision of the season, although she was her usual dominating self in defeat.
She struck out seven over six innings, the lone blemish in Wednesday's resumption Daly Garland's two-out double in the third inning.
In the game's lone run, on May 15, Melissa Duffek doubled with one out in the second inning and scored on Gracie Lapacek's single.
"It was just like a regular game, starting from the top. Since we were down we had to bring our best, which unfortunately wasn't today," Derkowski said. "It was still a good game, though. The circumstances of the game were a little unusual and rough but nothing we can do about that."
Derkowski was a day removed from a career milestone, her 700th strikeout. Now she is setting her sights on another long postseason run. York (17-2) is the No. 2 seed and Downers Grove South (15-3) the No. 3 seed in a sectional headlined by Marist, the state's No. 1-ranked team.
"It was awesome to get [700 strikeouts]. My goal was 1,000 but that was before COVID happened, unfortunately another thing out of our control, but super excited to get  done," Derkowski said. "I think our team is ready. We have a really good team on the field and chemistry off the field."
Cushing, for his part, said this was a big win for his team, coming off a loss against a hard-throwing pitcher routinely capable of double-digit strikeout performances.
"We turned the pitching machine up to 65 this week and had them battle," he said. "We needed some confidence coming off a bad game at Neuqua and to their credit they worked hard in practice."