Softball: Gatz powers Oswego East past Metea Valley
Kenzie Gatz hit an unwelcome detour in her offseason plan.
The Oswego East senior and Saint Mary's University of Minnesota recruit broke her foot playing third base in October. She missed the rest of fall ball and wasn't cleared to resume workouts until January.
Since then, though, Gatz has put in extra work in the cage to get her swing back.
It showed Friday.
Gatz had three hits, including a run-scoring triple, and scored two runs. Oswego East banged out 13 hits as a team and parlayed a five-run second inning to a 7-2 win over Metea Valley in Aurora.
"It feels good to be back," Gatz said. "It feels like all my hard work is paying off right now for the team. When I broke the foot, I couldn't do that much with it. I started getting back into it in early January and worked my way up to now."
Oswego East coach Sarah Davies sure is glad to have Gatz's powerful bat back in the middle of the order.
Gatz, one of four starters returning for the Wolves (2-0), hit .356 as a junior and settles in nicely in the No. 5 spot in Oswego East's order in her third varsity season. Gatz homered Wednesday in Oswego East's suspended game at Sandburg, singled to spark the five-run second Friday and tripled in Mary Kate Quaid the next inning.
"Kenzie has been in our lineup since her sophomore year in a power-hitting position. We were hoping that would continue to progress as she got older, and it has," Davies said. "If she makes that solid contact, that is all we need up and down the lineup."
Metea (2-2) broke out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning Friday.
Elena Gonzalez and Genevieve Gonzalez singled, and Elena Gonzalez scored just ahead of the tag on a sacrifice fly by Claire Desrosiers.
Nicole Stone's sacrifice fly scored Quaid in the second inning to tie it 1-1. From there, Oswego East strung together three consecutive hits to score four two-out runs for a 5-1 lead. Metea couldn't stop the bleeding.
"I think we just learn from it," Metea coach Michaela Paprota said. "We were working really hard, our pitcher was working hard. I think it's getting them to understand that we can't worry about what just happened. We just have to worry about the next one."
Oswego East can be a tough offense to shut off when it gets started.
Eight of nine starters reached base Friday either by a walk or a hit, with Finley Anderson, Mia Corres, Quaid and Ronnie Craft each collecting two hits.
Craft's single under the second baseman's glove brought in Gatz with the go-ahead run, May Pasqualini beat out an infield single to bring in two more runs, and Anderson's single made it 5-1. The Wolves were playing their first full game in 10 days, but didn't look the part.
"We stress that base hit mentality, it's something you will hear us say all the time," Davies said. "Up the middle, opposite side, one hit or another. That's how we build runs. That is the cornerstone of the program the last two years."
Gatz maintained an aggressive mentality throughout her at-bats Friday, swinging early in the count on a raw, gray day.
"Usually my mindset at the plate is I'm looking for first-pitch strike, any strike," she said. "They were just throwing my pitch a lot. I'm looking for a good pitch to hit early in the count so I don't get caught late in the count."
The Wolves' scoring outburst was a welcome sight for Oswego East senior pitcher Emma Lenczewski, making her second varsity appearance. Lenczewski threw up four straight shutout innings after allowing two of the first three batters to reach base.
"It was me and [catcher] Ryenne [Sinta's] first time working together, getting used to calling pitches and throwing to each other," Lenczewski said. "I knew my team had my back the entire game, not just my defense but offense too."
Lenczewski, one of five pitchers Davies could use this season, struck out five and allowed just three hits in an effective, if not overpowering, outing.
"We have a deep pitching bench, but we're excited with what she brings," Davies said. "She brings a lot of versatility. She has a lot of pitches she can command. She's not going to blow it past you, but because it moves and spins you're going to see a lot of weak contact."
It kept Metea at bay, but Paprota doesn't expect that to be the norm.
The Mustangs, who bring back 10 players from last season, have already scored 34 runs over four games.
"We have confidence in our bats," Paprota said. "We are going to score some runs, which will take pressure off the defense."