Softball: Willowbrook downs Schaumburg
So how did Willowbrook freshman Caitlyn Kulczyski feel when she stepped on the pitcher's mound for the first start of her high school career on Thursday?
"I was definitely real nervous," said the rookie right-hander, although she looked anything but tense.
Instead she looked a like poised senior, tossing a 4-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 7-1 triumph at Schaumburg.
And in Game 2, how about some déjà vu?
Warriors coach Rachel Karos sent out another freshman, Kayla Neff, for her first high school start.
Neff also impersonated a senior hurler, as she fired a 2-hitter with 6 strikeouts to lift the visitors to a 16-1 four-inning (15-run rule) victory.
The Warriors' sweep evened their record at 2-2 and unveiled a young but promising pitching staff for Karos.
Her other pitcher is sophomore Caroline Dooley, who won 18 games as a freshman.
"I always wondered how many more wins Caroline would have had if we could have given her some rest," said Karos, a former standout third baseman for Naperville North who played at Eastern Illinois. "So having these two freshmen to give her some rest this season and knowing they can get the job done is definitely promising and amazing. And they all happen to be solid with the bats."
Kulczyski was the Warriors' only multiple hitter in Game 1, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double in the 5-run fifth inning.
Also getting hits for Willowbrook were Samantha Mishlove, Annamarie Knudtson, Dooley, Amy Bussa, Neff and Shannon Knudtson.
Kulczyski's first eight outs were strikeouts.
"I was not expecting to do that," said the humble Kulczyski, who was a right side hitter for the freshman 'A' girls volleyball team in the fall. "But it feels good to show my coach and my team what I could do. I'm really happy. It feels good and everyone played well."
Ditto in Game 2.
Shannon Knudtson (3-for-3, 5 RBI, triple) and Bussa (3-for-4, RBI) led the 13-hit parade while Katie Pettinger was 2-for-2 with 3 runs and 2 RBI. Teammates Kulczyski, Samantha Mishlove, Loren Perry (double), Annamarie Knudtson and Neff (2 walks) added base hits.
Neff allowed only 2 hits, to Tiffani Rudnick (1-for-1, walk) and Tatiana Cooper (1-for-2, double, 1 run).
"I just stayed loose, and didn't get tense," Neff said. "I just kept my head up no matter what the situation was. I kept going because I knew I'd be able to bounce back no matter what happened."
It happened to be a pair of freshmen facing each other in Game 1 as the Saxons' ninth grader Morgan Miller struck out four.
Batting No. 3, Talia Torosian singled sharply to right for the Saxons' first hit in the first inning when Kulczyski struck out the side.
Torosian also hit the ball sharply twice in Game 2 but right at outfielders who made the outs.
"They had two good pitchers," said Torosian, the Saxons' veteran shortstop who made a terrific diving grab to her left and threw to first to take a hit away from Annamarie Knudtson in the top of the fourth of Game 2.
"To score runs, we need to string hits together. And we need to shake off our errors in the field and come right back and make plays."
Also getting hits in Game 1 for the hosts (0-5) were Nikki Kolodziej, Kim Kolodziej and Rudnick.
"I think we just have to fine tune some things," said Saxons coach Ellen Abreu. "We are working on our approach at the plate. We have to clean up some stuff on defense. It's early and there is a lot of room to grow. Hopefully, we'll get things rolling, get the bats going and bring it all together."
Karos is looking forward to bringing three youthful pitchers to the mound.
"It's definitely something I know we've got going for us," she said "Carolne had to carry us last season. It's good to have a supporting staff and obviously good things are on the horizon. Each game this season, we have gotten stronger so that's been good."
Dooley also impressed in a loss to Plainfield Central when she allowed only 2 hits.
"She pitched an insane game," Karos said. "She didn't get the defense. So she is solid and will do amazing things. And with the year-round experience of the freshmen, they've come in with the confidence of an upperclassman. They have already been in a lot of different scenarios and been at this pace before."