Softball: Barbanente's early home run ignites Lake Park's win over South Elgin
Lake Park wasted little time taking control of Friday's Class 4A South Elgin regional championship game against the host school.
Lancers leadoff batter Michela Barbanente smashed the fifth pitch she saw from Storm starting pitcher CeCe Bell over the center field fence for a home run and a 1-0 Lake Park lead.
Lake Park added three runs in the second and seven in the third for an 11-0, five-inning win over South Elgin.
The Lancers advance to the St. Charles East sectional Wednesday. They will face the winner of Saturday's Elk Grove regional title game between the host Grenadiers and St. Charles North.
"To be honest, I just wanted to be a leadoff hitter," Barbanente said. "(Lake Park coach Tom) Mazzie told me earlier that any barrel can threaten a team and it just sets the tone for the rest of the game."
"They came out and Barbanente hitting the home run in the first inning really kind of sent a message and set the tone," South Elgin coach Brad Reynard said, "I don't know if we ever recovered from it."
Lake Park capitalized on two bloop singles to score in the second. With two outs, Madelyn Franco drew a base on ball. Ari O'Connell followed with a pop up that landed on the edge of the right side of the infield. After Barbanente walked to load the bases, Bre Caper singled to almost the exact same spot that O'Connell did, plating both Franco and O'Connell. Barbanente scored on Kylie Pytlak's single to left.
"Today they executed everything, especially offensively. We had six, seven, eight pitch at-bats even in our outs which makes the other pitchers work," Mazzie said. "When we got runners on base, we started going small ball and we put pressure on them. They had struggles throwing strikes in the middle and gave us some runs."
In the third frame, Lake Park (18-12) batters laid down three successful bunts in a row that kept its 11-run rally going. Cailynn Gdowski capped the inning with a two-run triple down the right field line.
"This team has been ruthless offensively all year," said Mazzie. "No matter who the pitcher is, it seems like we are able to barrel stuff up. Sometimes we hit it at people but today, they fell in."
Mia Savage started for Lake Park and face only 11 batters in the first three innings, yielding no hits and only two walks.
"I threw a lot of spins and trusted my defense," said the junior right-hander.
Mazzie, who is known to change pitchers after they have gone through the lineup once, had Savage start the fourth inning.
Storm batters finally solved the junior. Anna Kiel smashed a one-out single to right and Ava McDaniel followed with a double to right.
Left-handed senior Donna D'Addabbo then took over in the circle and retired the next two batters.
"Savage was able to keep them off-balance, so I let her go a bit longer than I probably intended," said Mazzie. "The more the rest of my pitchers can give my lefty Donna a chance to not have to throw a ton of pitches, the better off we are."
South Elgin threaten again in the fifth when Payton Howel smashed a one-out double to left. But she only got as far as third base before D'Addabbo retired the side.
"I can't be prouder of this team. They battled to the last out," Reynard said. "But it just wasn't our day."
South Elgin, which won the Upstate Eight Conference title, finish the season with a 24-8 record.