Softball: Elk Grove advances to regional championship game
With hall of fame coach Ken Grams winning his 1,006th game on Thursday, Elk Grove's No. 7-seeded softball team advanced to its own Class 4A regional championship on Saturday at 11 a.m. against No. 2 St. Charles North.
Grams will be trying for his 23rd regional crown in 41 seasons thanks to a 9-4 triumph over No. 10 Schaumburg behind the battery of sophomore pitcher Erika Gore and junior receiver Megan Malartsik, the same duo which provided the veteran Grens coach with his 1,000th win a little more than two weeks ago at Stevenson.
"That's so great," said Schaumburg coach Ellen Abreu of Grams' remarkable amount of wins and regional titles. "Kenny is such an awesome coach."
The veteran coach didn't have to wait long to see his team grab the lead on Thursday.
Senior center fielder Ava Engwall stepped to the plate with two runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the first inning.
With one swing of the bat, Engwall, Lexi Goeringer and Malartsik all crossed the plate, thanks to Engwall's nifty bat control that resulted in a single to center.
"It was an outside pitch so I kind of just stuck my bat out there," Engwall said. "And I was hoping for the best."
She certainly got the best as an error on the play allowed Engwall to make it home, too, for the 3-0 lead.
"I was really hyped up considering it was so early in the game and everyone was cheering," Engwall added. "It felt good getting everyone home and very exciting for early in the game."
After a key sacrifice bunt by catcher Kim Kolodziej, Schaumburg pitcher Morgan Miller (2-for-4) singled home Sydni Ellis (1-for-2) with two outs in the third inning to cut the gap to 3-1.
But Sabina's Lehnert's RBI single to right in the fourth and Goeringer's leadoff homer in the fifth extended the lead to 5-1. It was Goeringer's team-high ninth long ball of the season.
Schaumburg cut it to 5-2 in the sixth with a sacrifice fly by Marisa Vodicka (1-for-2) scoring Miller from third base.
But in the bottom of the inning, the Grens scored 4 times, thanks to a 2-run single to center by Ariana Trausch, a sacrifice fly by Goeringer and freshman Aliya Garcia scoring on a wild pitch.
Schaumburg dug in again at the plate and scored two more runs on RBI singles by Payton Dolecki and Jordan Karson.
The Saxons (12-9) had two runners on and two out when Gore ended the game with her fifth strikeout and second of the inning.
"Erika was an important part of it today," Grams added. "Schaumburg is a good hitting team and I thought she did a good job staying strong. Toward the end, she had to reach back and she did. We also got hits at the right time which is a big part of the game."
In all, the Grenadiers had 8 hits, led by Goeringer (2-for-3). Freshman Hannah Kugelberg (1-for-2) had a double and Ashleigh Schwartz had a bunt single and Bella Rosario reached safely on an infield hit.
The Saxons had 7 hits, led by Payton Dolecki (2-for-4, RBI) and Miller (2-for-4, 2 RBI).
"If there is one thing these kids always do, it's keep fighting to the end," Abreu said. "No matter what is happening in the game they keep trying to pick themselves up and perform well at the plate, At this point, it was going to come down to the little things."
Now, the Grenadiers (18-11) will be looking for big things on Saturday against St. Charles North (21-4).
"We just have energy and not get down," Engwall said. "We have to stay hyped the whole game because that's what really gets everyone going if you're all cheering, having fun and being one."