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Ryan’s grand slam helps bring Batavia softball back

LOMBARD – It is 187 feet from home plate to the left-field foul pole at the Glenbard East High School softball diamond.

Because Katie Ryan hit a ball 188 feet Monday, Batavia is still alive in the postseason.

Ryan’s seventh-inning grand slam erased a 6-2 deficit and the Bulldogs added four more runs in the inning to pull out a 10-7 victory over the host Rams in opening round of the IHSA Class 4A Batavia Regional.

“I was just trying to make contact,” Ryan said. “I was lucky. I wasn’t really trying to hit a home run. I was just trying to hit it anywhere, to be honest.”

In scouting Glenbard East earlier in the season, Batavia coach Lupe Castellanos said he noted the field dimensions were a bit smaller than a lot of other area fields and he thought Ryan might be able to hit a home run if she got under a pitch.

“She’s always in scoring position,” Castellanos said. “That’s how I feel when she’s at the plate. She put a good swing on the ball and came through with a big hit in a big spot.”

Ryan certainly got under the ball, enough so that the senior anxiously looked as she rounded first to see if the left fielder was going to make the catch.

“It was so high,” she said. “I nervously watched it. Either she was going to catch or it was barely going over.”

Ryan’s slam also got her off the hook for the loss. She gave up seven runs on nine hits in 61/3 innings of work. Only three of the runs were earned, however, as the Bulldogs (9-18) made a few fielding miscues behind her, especially early in the contest when Glenbard East (9-19) jump out to a 4-0 lead.

“We were a little rattled, maybe, to start the game,” said Ryan (1-3). “I think once everyone settled down, we did good on defense.”

The Bulldogs also started to get a little offense, scoring a pair of runs in the third inning on Selena Kweder’s bloop single to center.

As dramatic as Ryan’s homer was, it still wasn’t enough to win the game. Ryan got plenty of help from her teammates in the final inning. Nicole Percy and Amanda Klein reached base safely with two outs to keep the Batavia rally going. A throwing error on Klein’s grounder allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead for the first time in the game and Lauren Mueller followed with a triple down the right field line to plate two more runs. Mueller, who had three hits in the game, scored on the fourth hit of the day for Ryanne Rokos. 

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our girls,” Castellanos said. “They didn’t give up. We kind of had a little strategy going into that last inning to wait for a good pitch and the girls did a good job, put the ball in play, and made things happen.”

The Rams tried to respond in the bottom of the seventh, getting a run off Ryan with a pair of hits, so Castellanos turned to sophomore Sarah Little to get the final two outs.

“I was just looking for somebody to get in there and throw some strikes,” he said. “Katie did a good job, got us to where we were at. I think she was just a little bit tired, so I wanted to get somebody fresh in there. Sarah did a nice job there at the end. She came in, threw strikes, got a big strikeout there and got that pop-up at the end for us to win the game.”

It was the first save of the season for Little, whose varsity experience before the post-season consisted of a couple appearances in a mid-season tournament.

The 17th-seeded Bulldogs will host Naperville Central, the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Neuqua Valley Sectional, in a regional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. today.

“I just want us to do like we did today,” Castellanos said. “We just went out there and left it on the field. Whatever happens, just go out there and play our game.”

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