Softball: Solid pitching, defense lifts Grayslake North
With a temperature of 41 degrees and light rain for the first pitch, the playing conditions were anything but ideal when Grayslake North hosted crosstown rival Grayslake Central in a Northern Lake County Conference softball showdown Thursday afternoon.
The host Knights did not let the adverse weather get in their way of their goal as they took a 1-0 lead after one inning before capturing a 4-1 NLCC victory over the Rams behind a very strong defensive effort from start to finish.
No. 3-hitter Nicole Hughes got Grayslake North (3-0, 2-0) going offensively in the bottom of the first with a double to right-center field before she scored on an RBI single to center field by teammate Gianna Certa for a quick 1-0 advantage.
Certa was also the winning pitcher for the Knights as she held Grayslake Central (2-3, 0-1) scoreless until the Rams broke up the shutout in the top of the sixth inning.
The score remained 1-0 until Grayslake North's Isabella Lizano led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to right field before Emily Gaeding walked, and Julia Landmesser was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out against freshman pitcher Ann Wolff.
A fielder's choice RBI by No. 9 hitter Ava Schwartz drove in Lizano for a 2-0 lead before Gaeding scored the third run when leadoff hitter Bria Verber reached base on an infield error.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Knights added an insurance run as sophomore Maddie Von Allmen reached base on an infield hit, moved to second on an error, and scored on an RBI single to left field by Landmesser for a 4-0 lead.
"I was just really happy how they came out and did all of the fundamentals that we needed to do to make sure that we could get a win," said Grayslake North coach Amanda Rodriguez, whose team had 8 hits in the contest. "My defense is really solid, I would say that every position is pretty locked down so we're happy with that. We're very optimistic. One of our goals is to win conference so we're starting off pretty strong."
Senior Rachel Smigielski got Grayslake Central's offense going with a one-out triple to right field in the top of the sixth before scoring on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 4-1.
But that would be as close as the Rams would get as Certa would retire five of the final six batters of the game to secure the Knights' victory.
"North is a good team and Certa is a great pitcher. I have all of the respect in the world for her and I knew coming in that this was going to be a challenge for us," said Grayslake Central coach Jason Schaal. "Today I thought we played well. The defensive miscues kind of let us down a little bit. I'm proud of my girls. I'm proud of Annie Wolff, a freshman pitcher stepping in the circle in this conference is not easy, and seven freshmen or sophomores started today so we're young."