Softball: Barbanente, Lake Park sweep Conant
Michela Barbanente came into Saturday's softball doubleheader at Conant batting a team-high .532 and as one of the all-around finest players in the area.
The Lake Park sophomore, who turned 16 two months ago, showed again just how dangerous her bat can be in the Lancers' 5-0, 7-5 nonconference sweep in Hoffman Estates.
In Game 1, she went 1-for-1, with 3 RBI, including a solo homer over the center field fence as the second batter in the game.
Then the terrific fielding shortstop, who actually only played center field and first base on Saturday, walked and had two deep sacrifice flies that drove home Bre Caper (2-for-4, double) and Carly Frank (2-for-2, double).
"By far, our top hitter," said Lancers coach Tom Mazzie of Barbanente (2-for-3 with an RBI double in Game 2). "She might be an all-stater this season. Her defense at short is unbelievable. She's world class.
"We were trying something different today," he added. "We were playing a lot of girls out of position with infielders in the outfield and vice versa. Obviously, offensively it doesn't make any difference but defensively, it just kind of inspires you a little and fires you up."
Lexi Szostak, who leads the team with 10 homers, was fired up on the mound facing many familiar faces from summer softball.
The junior right-hander (4-3) tossed a 6-hit shutout with 2 strikeouts.
"Knowing so many batters, including my summer teammate who was the No. 3 hitter for Conant (Ali Falcone), it makes me more aggressive with the strike zone because you just want to get them out," Szostak said. "And we were all getting to experience new positions today so that was just really fun for everyone."
Szostak also had a sacrifice fly in Game 1 that drove in Caper.
"Once you get to one-and-done in the state playoffs, when you get a runner on third base and less than two outs, you've got to score," Mazzie said. "So we got runs on sacrifice flies (four for the day) grounders (Riley Dallmann) to second and a bunt (Brynn Sheedy). There were a lot of good things. We kept the pressure on them."
Donna D'Addabbo (2 doubles) went the first four innings to earn the win in Game 2 while Madi Kuban finished the final three. Mia Zepeda and Mia Savage also had doubles for the Lancers (17-10) in Game 2.
"Our pitchers have settled down and if you look at our last six or seven games, we're giving up less runs and scoring more," Mazzie said. "So our pitchers have been doing the job so has the defense. I also thought we put some pretty good swings on their two good pitchers."
Sophomore Natalie Spaitis threw a complete game for Conant (7-13) in the opener while freshman Marissa DiFrancisco did the same in Game 2.
"They are both young pitchers and I'm proud of them," said Conant coach Ali Bauch. "They found a way to get through the game and worked well with their catchers (sophomore Mikayla Nowicki and freshman Ashleigh Simmons). There was good camaraderie between them and I like to see that."
Simmons (triple) and teammate Emma Wokurka each had 2 hits in Game 2. Falcone and Spaitis did the same in Game 1. .
"We have to hit with runners on base and be able to come through in the clutch," Bauch said. "We weren't doing that consistently for our pitchers. It's just learning to have guts and find a way to have our pitchers' backs."