Softball: Arends pitches, hits Naperville Central to regional win
No wonder that "smart" is the first word -- and most often used -- that Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum uses to describe pitcher Halle Arends.
After all, the 6-foot-2 senior is going to be a pre-med major when she pitches in college next year at UNLV.
Arends was on top of her game Wednesday at the Class 4A Geneva regional, holding No. 8 seed West Aurora to 5 hits and 1 earned run in a 5-2 victory.
For good measure, she went 2-for-3 at the plate including her first home run of the year.
"She's a smart pitcher," Nussbaum said. "I think as it gets warmer she'll gain some speed. But she's smart and (assistant coach) Mike Ortiz does a good job calling pitches and she's got pretty decent speed as it is and good breaking balls, a good change. She's real smart I would say."
Arrends improved to 16-9, striking out three. Her only walk was an intentional one to Gab Drager in the first inning, a move that worked out when the Blackhawks stranded a pair of runners.
The ninth-seeded Redhawks (18-16) will play No. 14 seed Geneva (15-11) for the championship at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The host Vikings upset No. 1 seed Yorkville on Tuesday.
Arends is one of just three seniors on the Redhawks along with outfielder Olvia Balaun and catcher Megan Foster (out with a torn ACL).
"We're excited," said Arends. "This is a special team and we're excited to see where it can go. We are young but we have a lot of talent and hopefully we can push through and keep winning."
One of those sophomores, No. 9 hitter Raegan Purl, led off the third inning with a single against Drager. Arends also singled. After a sacrifice bunt by Katie Gutsell, junior Katlyn Allen lined a 2-run single for a 2-0 lead.
Three of West Aurora's hits came in the fourth including an RBI single by Riley Mont to pull within 2-1.
Arends quickly restored a 2-run lead in the fifth with her second career homer, a shot to left-center.
"What a time to get it," Nussbaum said.
The Redhawks scored two more times in the sixth on an error and wild pitch for a 5-1 lead which was more than enough for Arends.
"Halle did a good job," West Aurora coach Randy Hayslett said. "We weren't on her today. Might have been more outside and didn't come in as much and we didn't adjust. Halle is good. She's smooth."
Naperville Central played flawless in the field until a couple seventh inning errors led to West Aurora's second run. Shortstop Allen paced the defense with five sure-handed plays on a variety of balls hit at her.
"She was sharp," Nussbaum said. "We've struggled at times defensively but today we were pretty sharp. That's the kind of team we want to continue to be. So many people contributed today. They have responded and haven't given up. For as young as we are they don't quit. I'm real happy with where we are at."
Allen and Jacqui Abogado joined Arends with 2 hits.
"A lot of stuff was working," Arends said. "I got to pitch to my defense and they did a great job making all the plays."
West Aurora ended the season at 21-11.
"Overall it was pretty good," Hayslett said. "I was happy with it. We had real good production from some of the freshmen. We got them a lot of playing time. Overall it was a successful season."