St. Charles North sweeps Lake Park, stays atop DKC
Anywhere St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin needs Meghan Nicastro to play, she's ready to at a moment's notice.
Nicastro, a senior and four-year North Stars varsity player, can be deployed practically everywhere on the pitch from across the infield and outfield.
"(Nicastro) honestly came up to me in the hallway today and she asked, 'So, where am I at?' I said, 'You're going to be in left,'" Poulin said after the North Stars defeated Lake Park 9-7 Wednesday in a matchup of DuKane Conference leaders to sweep the regular-season series Wednesday and take a one-game lead on the Lancers and St. Charles East.
The North Stars play the Saints on Thursday.
"She's like, 'OK, I just want to get my head right,'" Poulin added. "She just wants to be ready. I (told her) to make sure the (team is) ready. That's the one I can say, 'Make sure they're ready' and she makes sure they're ready."
Nicastro had a 2-run single in the second, walked in the fourth and popped out in the fifth.
Nicastro was one of six North Stars seniors to be honored in a pregame ceremony, which also included Ashlee Chantos, Auburn Roberson, Morgan Lahner, Kiara Sheetz and Eileen Sheetz.
"(Nicastro is) our captain. Your team mom," Poulin said. "She's very mature (and) levelheaded. She's the one if I have to get any information out to the team, that's who you go through."
The leadership demonstrated by Nicastro evidently shines through for the North Stars.
"She's had to be a natural leader because she developed into such a good one. She approaches the game consistently with team-first mentality. Whatever we ask her to do, she does," Poulin added.
"I'm not playing softball in college next year so I think this season is my last hurrah," Nicastro said. "I think from the first game I came out just having so much confidence coming from last season coming into this season. It feels good to play one last season with this team."
Lake Park (15-7, 9-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead off North Stars ace pitcher Ava Goettel in the first inning on Brynn Sheedy's 2-run double and a wild pitch that brought in Sheedy, but Nicastro's 2-run single cut the deficit to one.
St. Charles North (16-2, 10-1) tied it in the third after Julia Larson reached on a leadoff single. Larson stole second and Roberson also singled. Roberson attempted a steal to second and the pickoff throw from home skipped into center field to allow the speedy Larson in for the 3-3 tie.
In the fourth Sheedy singled to lead off and advanced to second and third on steals. A passed ball then brought her in for Lake Park to retake the 4-3 lead.
St. Charles North's Mackenzie Patterson smoked a 3-run triple and Larson followed with an RBI single in the fourth for the sudden 7-4 North Stars lead.
In the fifth Michela Barbanente reached on an error, stole second and on a double from Bre Caper to center, attempted to reach home. But North Stars junior Leigh VandeHei's throw in and tag from catcher Sophia Olman prevented the run. The Lancers then loaded the bases and Cailynn Gdowski's bunt single scored Caper from to cut the North Stars' lead to 2.
Lake Park again tied the game in the sixth bafter a wild pitch with the bases loaded brought in Lindsey Onnezi from third and Gdowski's infield single. The ensuing batter, Ava Arenz's hit to second forced a collision between North Stars second baseman Margo Geary and Arnez in the basepaths for an out, deemed interference, which negated a potential go-ahead run for the Lancers to end the top half.
Geary lead off with a single and reached second on a wild pitch. VandeHei's bunt single forced a quick throw to first and instead trickled into right field to allow Geary time to score and take the 8-7 advantage. With Patterson at the plate, VandeHei stole second and a Patterson grounder to Lancers second baseman Rachel Kerulis forced a rushed throw for an error, bringing VandeHei in for the insurance run.
North Stars pitcher Paige Murray then struck out the side in the seventh for the win.
"I'll be honest, we executed poorly in a lot of situations. They can say the same thing," Lancers coach Tom Mazzie said. "We left five, six runs out there not executing. It's things we've been doing (that) things we didn't do today. They have a great pitcher. The zone was small. It was small for both teams."
"That's the one thing I'm harping on these girls: you can't complain about umpires and whatever else," Mazzie added. "You just got to go out there and adapt. I thought we did a great job. To put up seven runs off (Goettel) ... between we put up 20 on St. Charles East; we put up seven on her.
"We can put up things offensively, but got to play a better game defensively and you got to execute. In softball anymore: No number of runs is enough so you just got to keep scoring and hope you're on top."