GENEVA – Geneva softball coach Greg Dierks lugged the memory of a blown, late lead against Waubsonsie Valley last year into Saturday's latest meeting with the Warriors.
In last year's game, the Warriors rallied to a win thanks to some well-placed, bloop hits in the seventh inning.
"That one bugged me until today," Dierks said. "Now I've got a new one."
While Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Warriors represented progress relative to how the Vikings have played lately, it still was bothersome, especially considering how well the Vikings played most of the game.
Geneva (3-9, 1-6 UEC River) was coming off a 15-0 embarrassment against Metea Valley its last time out.
"I told them afterwards [Saturday] that we have to find some confidence out of the fact that we did so many things well today and carry that over, and just keep working through the things that didn't go well for us," Dierks said.
Geneva led Waubonsie (11-2, 6-1 UEC Valley), 4-2, with two outs and nobody on base for the Warriors in the top of the sixth inning when defensive disaster struck.
On consecutive plays, Vikings pitcher Haley Orwig induced ground balls to third base, both of which Vikings third baseman Kirsten Searcy fielded cleanly. But, on both occasions, first baseman Jordyn Schmidt was unable to snag Searcy's seemingly on-target pegs, prolonging the inning.
The Warriors made the Vikings pay. With runners at second and third, Waubonsie junior Melaina Koulos smacked a two-run single to right field, and took second base when the ball was mishandled in the outfield. Senior Erin Hohman then singled to left field to score what turned out to be the winning run.
The Vikings rallied from a 2-0 hole by scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth off Warriors starter Jordan Kurth. Geneva center fielder Bridget Weitzel started the inning with a double and freshman Emily Plocinski, sophomore Madison Keith and junior Jenelle Reilly added hits as part of the outburst.
The Vikings' mid-game momentum arguably started with the final play of the top of the fourth, when a strong throw from Keith in left field to Reilly behind the plate beat Waubonsie's Meghan Grannan, who was attempting to score on a sacrifice fly.
"I wasn't out that far so I knew it was a girl that I could get and, in my mind, as soon as I caught it, I knew she was going to take off," Keith said.
The Warriors also encountered offensive frustration in the top of the third, when leadoff hitter Amanda Lack's drive to left-center field bounced off the very top of the wall back onto the outfield. Lack ended up being stranded.
It seemed like it might be that kind of day for Warriors coach Aly Kelley's team.
"We had Thursday and Friday off due to flooding at the school so we weren't able to go in and practice or use any of the facilities because they were under water," Kelley said. "School was even canceled for them so they weren't there at all. Mentally, today, we came out dragging a little bit but regardless of that, no excuses."
Orwig struck out four, walked none and steered clear of a big inning until the three unearned runs scored in the sixth.
"That was definitely her best outing of the year," Dierks said. "She was mixing up her speeds well and she had them off balance a lot."
Considering the struggles the Vikings have had lately, Saturday certainly constituted improvement.
"Definitely progress," Keith said. "I think a huge thing today was the attitude was there. We had a good attitude today. Everybody was here to play, we all wanted to play for each other, and that definitely helps contribute to close games like this because [Waubonsie] was definitely a good team."