Softball: Hiller, Fremd blank Conant to advance to sectional final
Grace Hiller and Fremd popped out Conant Tuesday in Palatine.
Hiller forced Conant to pop the ball up 13 times nine of which were in the infield, as Fremd blanked Mid-Suburban West rival Conant 3-0 in the Class 4A softball sectional semifinals.
Fremd (23-8), which is seeded second, will host fifth-seeded St. Charles North on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. St. Charles North upended top seed St. Charles East 8-3 Tuesday.
Hiller allowed just 2 hits, walked 1 and struck out 3. She credited her defense for its fine play behind her.
"It was all the defense," Hiller said. "I just work to contact. I really don't blow it by them. I know once they hit, my defense is just there and they know that they have to be on their toes."
Hiller and the large crowd that surrounded the field and watched from the hill overlooking the field, got a great view of that Fremd defense in the top of the first.
Conant's Janessa Gonzalez led off the game with a single to center. She advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Natalie Spaitis.
With two out, Mikayla Nowicki ripped a ball down third that was too hit to handle and it skidded into left field. Fremd's Ryanne Goodwin picked up the all and without hesitation, fired it home to cut down Gonzalez at the plate.
"I was backing up just in case," Goodwin said. "I saw the ball go over and I was just looking for the next out I could get. My team was yelling 'four' so I just knew where to go."
Conant (10-16) would only reach base twice from there on. Both times were by Payton Andjulis, who doubled and later walked and stole second. Both times she was stranded there.
Fremd's offense did all its damage in the first two innings.
Kalyn McCarthy walked to lead off the Fremd first. She promptly stole second and then scored on Elaina Kraus' single to make it 1-0.
"I went in the box and I knew I had to get the job done," said Kraus, who would get hit by a pitch and walk in her other two at bats.
"I knew I had to get something out because Kalyn is fast. She can make it home in no time. So I had to execute."
Kraus, who catches, was replaced by courtesy runner Catie Mooney, who also stole second. She came home to score on Cali DiVito's single that made it 2-0.
Fremd added on in its next at-bat. McCarthy singled and stole second. She then came home to score on Anna Poss' single that just eluded a diving Emma Wokurka to make it 3-0.
"My job is to get on base and score," said McCarthy, who has 44 stolen bases this season. "I just like when our offense pushes me over."
From there it was a dual between Hiller and Spaitis from Conant, with neither team giving in.
"All year long Grace has kept us in games," Fremd coach Josh Teschner said. "And the defense has risen to the occasion time and time again. Flying around and diving for balls."
Conant coach Allie Bauch said she was very pleased on how her team advanced this season.
"I am so proud of these girls and how they finished, " Bauch said. "I told our girls that we had an opportunity to keep playing. From where they were two Mondays ago and the amount of improvement that they show now, I could not be prouder of them."