Softball: Huntley overcomes mistakes, St. Charles North
It's safe to say Huntley will win a lot more games this spring in prettier fashion than its 7-5 nonconference victory at St. Charles North on Tuesday.
The Red Raiders overcame plenty in improving to 6-5, including ...
• Losing their starting catcher Lindsay Morgan early in the game, which led to seven passed balls from the two replacements who followed.
• Five other errors in the field, extending innings for St. Charles North and forcing pitchers Jori Heard and Bri Bower into making extra pitchers in pressure situations. Neither allowed an earned run.
• St. Charles North also had its problems in the field with 4 errors.
• All those mistakes put Huntley in holes of 2-0, 4-2 and then a 5-5 tie in the sixth.
And the good news for the Red Raiders is they overcame all of them, scoring twice in the top of the sixth and then watching Bower strand a pair of runners in both the bottom of the sixth and seventh, striking out the side both times.
"I think it was just one of those days," said Huntley first basemen Alex Kiriakopoulos. "It happens. Sometimes you have off days, you can't really prevent that, but we came back at the end. We got better as it went on."
St. Charles North (2-1) did something you rarely see, scoring its first four runs on passed balls. Heard, who started for Huntley, gave up two runs in the third, a rally that started with an error and included a botched rundown by Huntley which eventually led to both runners scoring later in the inning on passed balls.
Bower relieved Heard with two outs in the third. Heard struck out eight in her short time in the circle, and Bower proceeded to fan 11.
It's a luxury for Huntley coach Mark Petryniec to have two hard-throwers, and it made life difficult not only for the North Stars trying to hit them but also the catchers trying to catch them.
"Missing a year last year, we have a lot of girls playing up on varsity for the first time," Petryniec said. "Bri and Jori are not the easiest pitchers to catch. You have a rise ball pitcher, it's not easy."
Huntley tied the game in the fourth, capitalizing on two North errors and four walks. Heard walked with the bases loaded to score one, and Kiriakopoulos plated the next with a fielder's choice.
The North Stars took a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the inning. Leigh VandeHei reached on a slap single and Ashlee Chantos on an error, and again both later scored on passed balls.
Huntley scored three runs in the fifth for a 5-4 lead, the key blows a sacrifice fly from Zoe Doherty and a line RBI single up the middle by Kiriakopoulos, who also doubled in the seventh.
"I was down in the count, just thinking I have to do my job and get the girls in," Kiriakopoulos said. "I've been trying to get a better plate approach."
After a Megan Bauwens RBI single made it 5-5, Huntley's winning rally in the sixth included another North error, a sacrifice bunt by Reese Hunkins, and Madison Smith's RBI groundout. Bower's single turned into the seventh run when her courtesy runner Alyssa Ekstrom stole second base and scored when the North Stars dropped a fly ball.
"It wasn't a fundamentally sound defensive game," Petryniec said. "Overall it was a gutcheck performance. We had to pick each other up. Good things happen when you put the ball in play."
Bower led Huntley at the plate with 3 hits and Marley Reicher had 2 against Anastasia Pappas, who pitched a complete game, striking out five, and only allowing 2 earned runs.
North Stars leadoff hitter VandeHei was 3-for-4.
"Both coaches would probably say we could play better but I'm proud of our kids. There wasn't any quit. They battled," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin, concerned about the eight called third strikes his team took.
"We got caught looking too many times. But that's also because she's very good and she may have fooled us. It is so early for us. We're just getting started and this was a really good learning experience for us. We feel we can be pretty good and we wanted to test ourselves against a really good softball team."