Photo: Shortstop Allyson O’Herron catches up to the runner trying to score and saves a run in the fourth inning of Kaneland’s 1-0 home win over Sandwich on Monday. Photo by John DiDonna
Stellar pitching keys additional wins over Sandwich, Morris
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—If you thought the method for getting a softball season out of an early funk was going to the state of Tennessee, then you’re stealing the Lady Knights softball team’s way of doing things.
With a number of handy victories that culminated in a 6-1 trip to the Volunteer State, coupled with a slim and tense victory over the visiting Sandwich Indians on Monday afternoon and a convincing decision over invading Morris on Tuesday, the Lady Knights find themselves at 10-4 (1-0 Northern Illinois Big XII) in 2012.
The fortunate return to the win column as of late reverses a trend that saw the varsity crew on the wrong end 21 of 28 times following last season’s early 8-1 start.
In a 14-0, six-inning win on March 28 on the grounds of Macon County High School, Kaneland saw a solid pitching day from Delani Vest, Alexis Villarreal and Ellissa Eckert. Lexi Roach (three runs), Paige Kuefler (five RBI) and Allie Miller (three runs) all went 3-for-5.
In the Cookeville, Tenn. tournament, Kaneland walloped Clay County in a 16-0 shortened affair. Vest and Villarreal surrendered just two hits total, while Roach had a 2-for-3 day at the plate with three runs scored. Vest also went 2-for-3 with three runs scored to help herself at the plate.
Lewis County then got the best of the Lady Knights in a 9-4 outing, helped by five runs in the first and second innings.
In another tournament battle, Kaneland defeated Fayatte with two runs in the bottom of the fourth for a 4-3 win. Vest earned the win with seven K’s and a two-for-three day at the plate.
Next, the Lady Knights used four runs in the second and six runs in the third to propel themselves to a 12-1 win. With Vest getting the win in the circle, Kuefler helped KHS with two home runs and six driven in. Miller went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI.
The two final games on Saturday both went Kaneland’s way against Franklin County of Tenn., a 10-0 shutout and a 12-2 win over Franklin Co. of Ky. Vest, besides earning the win in both games, also went 6-for-6 at the plate, while Kuefler drove in four RBI.
In the clutch, 1-0 win over Sandwich, the hits were hard to come by for both teams, but the defense and pitching came through.
In the top of the third, Sandwich was caught between third and home and foiled by Kuefler and Allyson O’Herron on the way to the plate. Meanwhile, Villarreal had a stellar day in the pitcher’s circle, fanning 13, including the final batter on a 3-2 pitch with the go-ahead run at first in the top of the seventh.
“Once people starting getting on base, I just had to buckle down,” Villarreal said. “I hoped the defense could pick it up a little bit and I could get my strikeout.”
Roach’s groundball and throw was mishandled in the infield, allowing Kuefler to come home with the lone run from third.
Coach Brian Willis was happy with the effort in the field on a day where the hits came at a premium.
“We’re going to have days like this, where the pitching and defense needs to pick you up. Alexis pitched well, and she kept us in the game the entire time,” Willis said.
In the 5-0 handling of the Lady Redskins, Kaneland scored two in the first, two in the third and one in the fifth.
Vest allowed just three hits and fanned seven. Lanie Callaghan made her way from the injury list with a 3-for-3 day with two doubles.
Ahead for the softball squad is a matchup in DeKalb on Thursday, April 5, followed by a battle at West Aurora High School on Monday, April 9, and a trip to Sycamore to face the squad that eliminated the Knights last year from playoff competition on Tuesday, April 10.