Softball: Grayslake North drops nonconference game to Woodstock North
Woodstock North sophomore Addi Salazar wasn't supposed to start in the pitcher's circle against Grayslake North on Friday.
But a last-minute change of plans forced Thunder coach Paul Sandall to scratch originally-scheduled starter Georgia Sedlack, and instead turn to Salazar.
The result was a 5-4 complete-game nonconference victory for Salazar, who baffled Knights hitters thanks in large part to her four-seam fastball, which actually sinks instead of rising, since the ball is pitched underhand rather than overhand.
Salazar scattered six hits and walked three. The reason for her success was twofold. Of the 21 outs she induced or helped induce, 10 were strikeouts and 10 were ground balls, while just one was a fly out.
"I'm naturally a low-pitch groundball pitcher," Salazar said. "And knowing [Grayslake North] has good power in their lineup, I wanted to keep them driving the ball into the ground."
Equally notable was how just five months ago, Salazar underwent surgery on her right throwing shoulder to repair a torn labrum in two places. She wasn't even medically cleared to pitch until two weeks ago.
It didn't stop her from notching her first win of the season.
"I felt strong out there, no soreness or anything really," Salazar said. "By about the third inning, I knew I had pretty good stuff going just based on how their hitters were reacting."
The Thunder offense staked her to a quick lead by tallying three runs in the top of the first inning. Salazar (1 for 2, two walks) led the game off with a walk, followed by a single from catcher Norah Mungle. Caylin Stevens drove Salazar home with an RBI single, followed by a single from Alyssa Carlin (2 for 3) that plated two more.
"Getting an early lead really boosted our energy and confidence," Mungle said. "From the opening pitch, we were ready to play today."
The Knights responded in their half of the third with an RBI single from No. 3 hitter Nicole Hughes. The Thunder (9-13) countered with two runs of their own in the fifth inning, when cleanup hitter JoJo Vermett blasted a two-RBI, line-drive double that split the gap in left-center, making it 5-1.
"The first five hitters in our lineup have been swinging the bat extremely well the past week," Sandall said. "The bats are starting to heat up at just the right time."
In fact, the Thunder's No. 1-5 batters were a combined 7 for 16, with two walks and four RBIs Friday. Their No. 6-9 hitters, however, struggled, and were just 1 for 11.
The Knights cut the lead to 5-2 in the fifth on a wild pitch that scored a run. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, things got dicey.
Salazar induced a groundout to shortstop Krista Herman for the first out. She then walked Bria Verber, before yielding a two-run home run to Hughes, which made it 5-4 Thunder. The ball was a towering blast that cleared the left-center field fence in what seemed like a heartbeat, prompting Salazar to let out a hearty laugh when asked about it after the game.
"Didn't get that pitch down at all," Salazar said. "She got all of it."
Salazar walked the next batter, putting the potential tying run on base, and brought the potential winning run to the plate, with just one out still.
But Salazar calmly got Maddie Von Allmen to ground one back at her for the second out, then sealed the victory by making Knights catcher Isabella Lizano her 10th and final strikeout victim.
Despite their sub-. 500 record and being in fifth place in the Kishwaukee River Conference, the Thunder have scored 15 more runs than their opponents. They will be a No. 7 seed in the Class 3A Sycamore sectional when they open postseason play May 24, and host No. 2 seed Burlington Central.
"We really hope we can play spoiler in the playoffs," Sandall said. "That's going to be our goal."