Softball: Algrim helps Kaneland get even with Ottawa

Grace Algrim treated a pitching day that was anything but routine as routine.

She pitched like it too.

Algrim, a Kaneland junior, usually shares the workload in the circle each game with McKenna Ryan. But Algrim learned four days before Friday's start at Ottawa that it was all hers.

"Not really, didn't do anything different, just took it easy," Algrim shrugged off. "Same as usual. Got to keep everything the same."

Algrim was sensational doing her own thing. She struck out nine batters, needing just 77 pitches to throw a complete-game five-hitter as Kaneland beat the host Pirates 2-0 to even the season series in the Interstate Eight Conference.

Just two runners reached second base off Algrim, and in just one inning did Ottawa put more than one runner on base.

"I was very happy with it," Algrim said. "A lot of my pitches were working, I was hitting my spots very well, happy with it."

Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler said that he usually alternates his two pitchers the first two games of the week. But this week he threw Ryan on Monday and Wednesday, and kept Algrim fresh with just two innings of relief in the second game.

The plan worked like a charm.

"Tremendous game by Grace," Kuefler said. "We were looking for her to run a full game. We really haven't stretched our pitchers too deep into games - just saving arms for the postseason - but today was one of the rare times we let her go. She knew this game was hers."

Algrim also received help from flawless defense behind her. On Ottawa's hardest-hit ball of the day, by Abby Bukantis with two out in the second inning, Kaneland's Olivia Stoker laid out in center field for a diving catch.

"I don't like the ball dropping, and I'll do anything I can to catch it," said Stoker, who also had two hits and scored Kaneland's second run. "I love playing behind Grace. I know she can get it done and we'll get it done for her."

Bukantis was more than Algrim's match much of the way in the circle, with six strikeouts while scattering eight hits. Bukantis retired the first six batters she faced, and Kaneland's Rose Roach was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on MacKenzie Hardy's bunt in the fourth inning.

But the Knights (15-4, 9-2) broke through later in the inning. With two outs Olivia Ortegel stroked an opposite-field single to right field, bringing home Hardy.

Stoker reached on an infield hit to start Kaneland's sixth, and came around to score on Danyelle Borysiewicz's two-out single.

That was plenty enough for Algrim.

McKenzie Oslanzi had two hits for Ottawa (16-4, 8-3), shut out for just the second time this season.

"She threw an excellent game," Ottawa coach Adam Lewis said of Algrim. "The one ball we did square up the center fielder laid out and made an awesome catch on. That's the way it goes. She got ahead of hitters, worked in and out, up down, threw a nice game. We have to do a better job of staying competitive in our at bats."

Lewis couldn't fault the effort of Bukantis, who gutted the game out after rolling her ankle coming off the mound.

"She's been working her butt off," he said. "The stuff she has been able to do at 60% is pretty darn good."

The game was played at the high level of a postseason game, and indeed both teams this week received No. 1 sub-sectional seeds for the playoffs that start June 2.

For now, Stoker relished returning the favor for a 3-0 loss to Ottawa earlier this year.

"They got us on our home field," Stoker said, "we had to get them on their field."

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