Softball: Garland, Rau power Downers Grove South past Willowbrook
On a day when the top of the batting order was unusually handcuffed, Downers Grove South's softball team got a big pick-me-up from the lower portion of its order Saturday afternoon at Willowbrook.
Warriors freshman pitcher Caitlyn Kulczyski did her best to contain the Mustangs' potent bats, but she suffered a tough, 4-1 loss to her West Suburban Gold rivals after Downers Grove South's 6-7-8 hitters came up big.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the fourth, No. 6 hitter Daly Garland hit an opposite-field home run to right center and Morgan Rau went back-to-back with her third homer this spring. Brynn Dvorcek then doubled for the team's third straight extra-base hit, and when she scored on a sacrifice fly by Maggie Greco, the 3-run inning proved to be more than enough for Mustangs ace Randi McKay to pick up the win.
"I felt really good," said Rau, who also singled twice while going 3-for-3 in the battle of WSC Gold unbeatens. "I just saw that our team was struggling and I wanted to be that spark today that got it going. In my head I was like, I got to do it today, because I have been feeling a little off, but now I'm getting back on and it's exciting to be here for that."
With the way McKay was pitching, it was not going to take much offense for the Mustangs to improve to 18-2 overall and 5-0 in the conference. But the veteran hurler was happy to see those insurance runs cross the plate in the fourth.
McKay had nine strikeouts and no walks, while allowing just one hit. That hit was a home run by Willowbrook second baseman Annemarie Knudtson in the bottom of the fourth.
"It's fun to watch," McKay said of the two home runs to open her team's half of the fourth. "We've been hitting a lot of home runs lately, so I know that I can trust my offense to get on the board. Even if I gave up that one home run I still knew that they would make up for it at the plate."
Downers Grove South coach Jim Cushing, who has been spoiled by big scoring outbursts most games, was glad to see the likes of Rau and Garland lead the way.
"The lower part of our order picked us up big time today. It was perfect," said Cushing, whose team was rained out all week before Saturday's game. "We've had a lot of offensive production lately. We were slowed down today, but it was enough to win. You're not going to hit every day."
In defeat Warriors coach Rachel Karos saw plenty of positives from her team, which dropped to 5-1 in the league and 13-6 overall.
"It was a great game," Karos said. "I felt good about it. If you went by their (Mustangs) scores all year, we were in pretty good shape today. I'm happy to go a full, tight game with them. Caitlyn pitched really, really well and I felt really good about our competing. We did some confident things today that we wouldn't have done two weeks ago."