DeKALB – By the time the DeKalb softball team’s offense got going Thursday against Kaneland, the Knights already were on the verge of a huge conference win.
Kaneland raced out to a four-run lead through the first five innings. DeKalb battled back with three in the sixth, but couldn’t come up with a final run in a 4-3 loss to the Knights at home.
“We could’ve done a better job. We face kids like [Kaneland pitcher Ellissa Eckert] every day and score 10 runs, so to come out and struggle and just get three so late ... ,” DeKalb coach Jeff Davis said. “I knew we were going to mark, I just didn’t know how many.”
Kaneland’s hitters had quality at-bats from the start against DeKalb pitcher Katie Kowalski, recording hits in each of the first three innings.
The Knights broke through for a run in the third when catcher Paige Kuefler doubled home Caroline Heimerdinger, who led off the inning with a single.
The Knights (11-2, 4-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) tacked on three more in the fifth as Heimerdinger and Lexi Roach reached base to start. After a sacrifice from Allyson O’Herron, Kuefler singled, scoring Heimerdinger and Roach, and came all the way around to score on two DeKalb errors.
“We’ve always done well against [Kowalski]. Our girls are starting to get their timing,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “We played [Wednesday] night and I think this is the first time we’ve played back-to-back games. It’s going to help when we get our at-bats.”
DeKalb (13-4, 3-2 NI Big 12 East) managed only three hits over the first five innings against Eckert, as the right-hander consistently kept the Barbs off-balance.
“I kept moving pitches around,” Kuefler said. “I know a couple of the players from playing them in summer ball, so I kind of know where their weaknesses are.”
The Barbs rallied for three in the sixth as Morgan Newport doubled home Hannah Walter and Lindsey Costliow. Sarah Friedlund then scored on an error to cut the deficit to one.
Newport, who relieved Kowalski for the final two innings, held Kaneland scoreless in the seventh and the Barbs threatened with Sabrina Killeen on second and nobody out.
But the rally quickly dissipated when Killeen was called out trying to advance to third on an infield groundout.
Costliow finished 2 for 3 with a double whle Newport was also 2 for 3 with two RBIs. Kuefler was 3 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored, and O’Herron was 2 for 3 with a double.
“It was a huge game,” Kuefler said. “DeKalb is one of our rivals, so it was a big game for us.”