ST. CHARLES – Confidence.
That’s what comes with a 16-game winning streak, and that’s what the St. Charles East softball team carried into the bottom of the eighth inning down 7-5 to Geneva on Tuesday afternoon.
The Saints led much of the game, up 5-1 before Geneva had a huge sixth inning, scoring four times to tie the game at 5. When the Vikings scored two more times in the top of the eighth, it looked like the streak might finally be over.
But East’s No. 8 hitter, second baseman Olivia Cheatham, smacked a leadoff home run – the fourth roundtripper of the game on what everyone was calling a hitter’s day at St. Charles East – bringing the game within a run.
It then snowballed for Geneva pitcher Haley Orwig, as the Saints got a hit batsman, a bunt single and a throwing error, the last of which allowed the tying run to score. Right fielder Olivia Lorenzini then smoked a line drive down the right-field line, plating the winning run and giving the Saints an 8-7 walk-off victory.
Seventeen in a row.
“I hadn’t hit her all game, and I was just so determined to get a hit because I was so frustrated with myself,” Lorenzini said. “The on-deck batter, Alex Latoria, we had a little chat, and she gave me some motivation. I just knew what I had to do.”
The chat between Lorenzini and Latoria ended with a handshake ritual that must have some magic powers. That, or Lorenzini was looking for some redemption.
“I had a defensive error in the top of the eighth and I was down on myself,” Lorenzini said, “but I realized we’re a good team. We’ve had so many consecutive wins that I really wanted to keep it going.”
The Saints earned deserved praise from the opposite side of the field, as well.
“I think to some degree the confidence they have from winning 17 in a row showed,” Geneva coach Greg Dierks said. “We got two runs in the top and they didn’t flinch. ... They showed a lot of confidence in the last inning, and they earned their win.”
It was a big offensive day for the bottom of the Saints’ lineup. No. 6 hitter Kate Peterburs finished a triple shy of the cycle, collecting three hits – including a two-run homer in the fifth – and an intentional walk, in addition to three runs scored, in her four plate appearances. No. 7 hitter, pitcher Haley Beno – who earned her 12th win of the season on the mound – picked up two hits as a batter, and Cheatham was also a triple away from the cycle, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
The win extended the streak to 17 straight wins, but it also sent the Saints to a 20-3 record on the season (9-2 in Upstate Eight play) and gave East head coach Kelly Horan the 100th win of her career. An upbeat Horan had many words for the team’s victory afterward, but two of them stood out: