SOUTH ELGIN – Squandering a sizable lead a day earlier inspired St. Charles East softball players when Wednesday’s game at South Elgin swiftly took a sour turn.
A five-run deficit after three innings gradually shrank until the Saints brought the tying run to the plate with one out in the seventh inning.
East came no closer as Katie Kolb’s outfield liner became a game-ending double play, leaving for home with a 5-3 loss in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover. With a scowl, the Saints broke their postgame huddle before the Storm, but at least they emerged with a lesson.
“Things can flip so easily, so that’s why you have to keep chipping away every chance you get,” senior shortstop Lexi Perez said. “Every opportunity, just go out there and do the best you can.”
Waubonsie Valley showed the Saints (3-3, 0-2 UEC River) the other side of that sentiment Tuesday, rallying to win, 5-4, in eight innings after East held a 4-0 lead after five.
South Elgin (6-2, 2-0) seized early control behind junior right-hander Katie Koss (4-0) while capitalizing on East’s shaky defense and base-running mistakes.
Storm catcher Alyssa Buddle, a James Madison recruit, threw out two would-be base stealers from her knees.
Storm senior shortstop Kara Rodriguez provided the big blow with a two-run home run in a three-run second. South Elgin led, 4-0, after Rodriguez struck, but ultimately had to hold on after a trio Storm errors fueled East’s two-run fourth. South Elgin had six errors overall.
“We told ourselves we had to come out strong. This was a good team, and for us to beat them, we had to come out strong and just stay on top of it,” Rodriguez said. “And I think we did for a little bit. We had a little down time, but we kept it up.”
East coach Kelly Horan credited junior right-hander Haley Beno for stabilizing the Saints.
Entering with two outs in the second after Alex Latoria (2-1) started the game, Beno settled down in tandem with her teammates.
She limited the Storm to one run and three hits in 41/3 innings while striking out eight.
“At the beginning, our defense, we kind of were back on our heels and we kind of gave them too much momentum going on,” Perez said. “As soon as we started hitting, that’s when we started getting back the momentum and kind of slowing things down a little bit.”
Sarah Collalti and Olivia Lorenzini collected two hits apiece for East, while No. 9 hitter Olivia Cheatham scored two runs.
Although the Saints return a pair of four-year varsity pillars in Perez and Lorenzini, a right fielder, newcomers such as Kolb and first baseman Kelly Rinker – both freshmen – still are getting acclimated. Cheatham is a sophomore, and junior catcher Mackenzie Meadows is new to the varsity, too.
East drew to within the final margin when Tess Hupe’s dribbler ricocheted off Koss’ glove toward second baseman Victoria Watt, who threw wildly to first base, allowing Cheatham to score.
Paige Allen relieved Koss in the seventh to earn the save, facing the minimum after the double play.
Horan joked that the only thing that might have kept her warm on a chilly day was a win. She still took the result in stride.
“I fully expected to take some lumps early in the season,” Horan said. “I’ll be really honest with you, I’m trying to figure out who my kids are and where they’re going to be best played at.”