Softball: Huntley's Bower fires 1-hitter, strikes out 16
Huntley catcher Lindsay Morgan had every bit of confidence that pitcher Briana Bower would wiggle out of trouble after Crystal Lake South loaded the bases with only one out in the bottom of the first inning Monday.
"I have so much confidence in Bri, she's a great pitcher," Morgan said. "The hitters coming up, she knew that she had to shut them down. ... She was in the right mindset. We were all in the right mindset today."
Bower struck out the next two batters swinging to get out of the inning and she settled in nicely from there. Bower finished with 16 strikeouts and allowed one hit, and Huntley beat the Gators, 8-0, in the teams' Fox Valley Conference game.
With the victory, Huntley improved to 5-5 overall and 4-0 in the FVC. In four conference games, the Raiders have yet to allow a run, outscoring their opponents, 40-0. Bower has started three of those contests with 36 strikeouts and two walks in 14 innings.
"It gave me a little bit of a fire. I just tried to put more speed and spin on the ball," Bower said of the first-inning jam. "Props to them for putting the ball in play and making me work. It was a lot of pressure, but I just did what I needed to do."
Huntley's offense provided Bower with plenty of run support.
The Raiders scored two runs in the top of the first, despite only one ball leaving the infield. South committed two infield errors in the inning and had four total.
In the top of the third, Morgan gave the Raiders more cushion when the senior reached out and pulled a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run home run. Katie Mitchell added a run-scoring hit in the third for a 6-0 lead.
"It was just in a good spot for me to put the bat on it, and sometimes it just goes over," Morgan said of the home run. "All you can do is keep swinging."
Bower had a feeling that Morgan (2-for-4, 4 RBI) was in store for a big day at the plate.
"I knew it was coming," Bower said. "I was pitching her heavy balls during warmups. I was glad. She was struggling a bit, but she got out of it."
Molly Cook had South's one hit, a hard-struck single in the fourth. Alexis Pupillo, who had seven homers in South's first five games going into Monday, flew out to the fence in her first two at-bats for the Gators' other hard contact against Bower.
Bower struck out the side in three of seven innings and held the Gators' 6-to-9 hitters to 0 for 11 with 10 strikeouts and a walk.
"We had too many called third-looking strikes today," Gators coach Pat Kelly said. "We needed to be a little more aggressive and put the ball in play. We've put up some runs, not today, but we definitely bring the bats in a lot of games. We've done a nice job of getting on top of each other and getting some hits in a row."
Huntley's Madison Smith was 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI, Katie Mitchell (2 for 4) had two RBI and a stolen base, and Reese Hunkins added two hits and a run.
Brooke Kuffel took the loss for South (4-2, 3-1 FVC), giving up six runs (four earned) over three innings. She allowed seven hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
Huntley plays at St. Charles North on Tuesday, followed by FVC games against Jacobs and Crystal Lake Central before getting an off-day on Friday.
It will be the first day without a game since the season started for the Raiders.
"I'm never going to complain about being able to play, especially after we lost a season," Huntley coach Mark Petryniec said after the Raiders played their 10th game in 11 days. "I'll play everyday. It's the grind.
"We have a tough nonconference schedule so we're ready for teams in the [FVC]. We're going to get everybody's best shot."