Softball: Kaneland's big 1st inning keys win over Crystal Lake Central
After a rocky start to Saturday's Class 3A regional championship game on its own field, Kaneland cruised to an 8-1 victory over Crystal Lake Central.
Knights starting pitcher Grace Algrim hit the first batter she faced and gave up home run to the second one.
Kaneland retook the lead with five runs in its half of the first and the Tigers went three-up, three-down the rest of the way.
Algrim, a right-handed senior, stuck out 12, issued no walks and gave up only two hits.
The Knights (17-12) advance to the Sycamore sectional and will play Sterling (15-6) in the first semifinal on Tuesday.
"Grace threw really well. We've kept her pitch count down throughout the year so she's healthy," said Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler. "Only 76 pitches today. As strong as she was, we kind of expected that and we're really happy with how she threw."
Crystal Lake Central all-conference catcher Giada Motto had to leave the game after being hit on the left wrist by Algrim's second pitch of the contest. Initially, the sophomore was awarded first base, but the decision was reversed on appeal. It was ruled that she swung at the pitch. Piper Letak finished the at-bat and took Motto's place behind the plate.
The Tigers' next batter, freshman third baseman Makayla Malone, knocked an 0-1 pitch over the left field fence for a solo home run.
Kaneland wasted no time in its first at-bat to take the lead. The first three batters reached base on a walk, a hit batsman and single. Leadoff batter Olivia Stoker scored on Jenna Harper's single, Kailey Plank was forced in when Lexi Workman walked, and Izzie Stombres scored on Abby Latka's sacrifice fly to center. Corinne Pugh's single to left plated Harper and Workman.
After giving up the home run to Malone, Algrim, a Northern Colorado University commit, retired the next 11 batters.
"My changeup was working today, which was surprising, normally it doesn't, and my curve," said Algrim.
Crystal Lake Central (15-17) senior Courtney Schober ended the string with a double to the gap in right field to start the fifth inning but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple. Knights second baseman Angelina Campise relayed right fielder Stombres' throw to Emily Olp at third base, who put the tag on a sliding Schober.
"I saw (Schober) run past second base so I threw it to third," Campise said. "I was confident I would get her out."
"I thought the play was amazing. I thought it was going to go over (the fence at) at first," Algrim said. "I did not expect us to throw (Schober) out at third, but when we did, I was super excited."
"That's one of those things you don't work a lot on, but it was perfect," Kuefler added.
After giving up a run in the second, Crystal Lake Central freshman starting pitcher Olivia Shaw kept the Knights scoreless for the next three innings. Kaneland added the final two runs in the sixth.
"I think Shaw did really well. We didn't support her terribly well early, especially in that first big inning. That cost us. It's hard to be down five runs and chase a pitcher like Algrim," Crystal Lake Central coach Brian Strombom said. "But for the middle five, she was toe-to-toe with Algirm."
Strombom thought playing in the postseason was good for his young squad and bodes well for the Tigers' future. He has 11 underclassmen on his roster and only one senior. "I think this is good experience for them," he said. "And getting to the regional final with five freshmen on the field, I think the future for this program is bright."