Softball: Elk Grove blanks Rolling Meadows to win regional title

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

Call it "The catch."

Saturday at the Class 4A Glenbard East softball regional championship game, Elk Grove sophomore Olivia Masnica pitched a shutout and had 3 hits as the Grenadiers won the title by beating Rolling Meadows 7-0.

But it was a terrific putout in right field by another Elk Grove sophomore, Morgan Leach, that completely changed the complexion of the game early on.

With the contest scoreless in the third inning, the Mustangs had two on with two out when Meadows' Caroline Slowik belted a shot down the right field line, a drive that looked sure to plate 2 runs for the Mustangs.

Leach, however, raced to her left, somehow made up a ton of ground despite the ball being pushed away from her by a strong wind, and speared it just before it hit the ground.

"If you've been around sports you know about momentum and how that can change and shift," said Grens coach Ken Grams, who won his 22nd regional title and fourth in the last five years.

"That was the play of the game as far as I was concerned, that and then the double that Olivia hit that drove in two runs. But Morgan's catch -- I didn't think she had a chance to get near the ball."

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"It was very important that we scored first today," added Grams, "and I'm sure they (RM) would say the same thing."

The Grens (25-9) will now move on to play Lake Park Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in a Glenbard West sectional semifinal in Glen Ellyn.

Leach, for her part, said she wasn't sure if she would be able to reach the line drive in time.

"It seemed like everything was going in slo-mo," said Leach, "and when I caught it, it kind of popped out of my glove for a second so I was really nervous. Then when I knew I had it I felt a rush of excitement."

"That gets down, it's a couple of runs for us," said Meadows coach Tony Wolanski. "Their kid made a great play."

Elk Grove scored first in the bottom of the third, when Masnica doubled then junior Katia Pendowski sent her home with a single.

The Grens extended the lead in the fourth on a 2-run double from Masnica, then scored 4 more times in the sixth, as Pendowski drove in 2 more runs and second baseman Alexa Fontanetta knocked one in as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On the mound, Masnica gave up only 4 hits while striking out 10.

"I just tried to pitch away from batters today and stay consistent on my locations," said Masnica. "it's pretty big, this win, because we split two games with Meadows this season so we wanted to come out and fight against them, because we knew they were going to come out and fight just the way we wanted to."

Referring to the stellar play by teammate Leach, Masnica said that, "the way the wind was pushing that ball away I wasn't sure she could get to it. But she was running hard and I had confidence in her."

Pendowski and Fontanetta each hit a couple of singles for Elk Grove, while Fontanetta and Taylor Schulz scored twice.

"It was just so much fun " said Leach of the victory. "Meadows beat us the last time out so both teams were competing hard today. It's tough to play a team twice and then come back and face them again when you're playing with your season on the line."

Sara Benner was on base three times for the Mustangs (17-12), while Sam Elenz doubled in the game and teammate Steph Thompson had 2 base hits.

"They know us," said Wolanski of Elk Grove, "and we know them so there's some familiarity there. What it came down to today was that they pitched well and we didn't hit the ball especially well."

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