Softball: Algrim, Kaneland shut out Belvidere North
Outstanding pitching and heads-up base running earned Kaneland a 5-0 win over Belvidere North and a Class 3A regional title Thursday afternoon.
Right-handed junior Grace Algrim struck out 10, walked none and gave up only four hits to notch the shutout, her 10th victory of the season.
"(Algrim) threw an exceptional game. We didn't have to go very much off-speed with her," said Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler. "She was hitting her spots and had velocity, so we didn't have to introduce any of her off-speed or spin (pitches)."
Alert runners took extra bases on Belvidere North miscues that later resulted in Knight runs.
"We work hard at base running," Kuefler said. "If we see any kind of separation of the ball from a fielder, we're taking advantage of it."
Kaneland, top seed in its subsection, advances to a sectional semifinal contest with Rock Island on Tuesday.
Belvidere coach Brian Hilden said his team's defense contributed to the final decision.
"I would say the errors that we committed early on made the difference," said the Thunder coach. "Now we've been pretty solid defensively throughout the year. Today was a little different."
Hilden was pleased with his pitcher, Becca Schwartz.
"I thought Becca pitched a really good game, only giving up five hits," he said. "So, I'm super happy with the way that went."
The Knights took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Oliva Stoker reached second on a Thunder error. The junior then scored on Oliva Ortegel's double down the third-base line.
Kaneland (18-5) added two runs in the third. Kailey Plank opened the inning with a single. Rose Roach, the next batter, scalded a grounder through the right side of the infield that plated Plank. Challenging Belvidere's outfield, Roach stretched a sure double into a triple. The senior later scored on a groundout.
"We take a lot of time to focus on baserunning and we definitely know how to run the bases," said Roach, an Auburn commit. "We look for the extra base every single time. The more bases the better."
In the fifth inning, the Knights scored two more runs. Ortegel walked and stole both second and third base during Emily Olp's at-bat. Olp then hit a blooper into short left field. The sophomore made the turn at first, was safe at second on an errant throw to the base and advanced to third. Olp crossed the plate with the fifth and final run on pinch hitter Abigail Latka's grounder to second base.
Algrim cruised through the first two innings, striking out four of the six batters she faced.
The Thunder threatened in the third. Leadoff batter Marissa Long reached base on a Kaneland error, advanced to second on Katelyn Norgrad's sacrifice bunt and took third on Alexandra Blair's two-out single. Algrim ended the threat by getting McKenzie Culvey to ground out.
After the third inning, only four Belvidere batters got on and none advance past first base.
"My fastball was working, and my rise ball was working," Algrim said.
The junior right-hander, who lost only twice this season, is upbeat on her team's future in the state tournament.
"I think we're going to go very far this year with the team we have right now," said Algrim.
Fourth-seeded Belvidere North ends its season with a 15-11 record.