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Surprising skid for North softball

ST. CHARLES – The second week of April is premature to say the defending Upstate Eight Conference River champions are on the ropes, but the St. Charles North softball team isn’t taking its plight lightly, either.

North lost its second game in a row to open the conference season Wednesday as crossover opponent Waubonsie Valley thoroughly outplayed the North Stars in a 6-2 Warriors victory.

“It’s pretty upsetting,” North catcher Emily Brodner said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever lost two games right away in our conference, but it gives us the power and the drive to come out in our next game to be on top and be on our game. It just gives us the fuel to do better tomorrow.”

North’s offense was prolific in a trio of wins to open the season, but the North Stars hit a rut in a 3-2 loss to Neuqua Valley on Tuesday and remained in the doldrums against Waubonsie Valley right-hander Shannon Hohman, who held North to one hit through the first six innings before a too little, too late rally in the bottom of the seventh.

“You’ve got to be deserving of victory, and we haven’t been deserving of victory the last two games,” North coach Tom Poulin said. “If we would have somehow pulled out a win yesterday or came back and won here, we would have stolen wins. We’re a much better team than we’ve demonstrated the last two days, but it’s early.”

Like North, Waubonsie (5-3, 1-1 UEC Valley) was coming off a loss the day before, a 4-0 setback to St. Charles East. But the Warriors’ offense sprung to life against North (3-2, 0-2 UEC River) as Waubonsie notched three hits apiece in the first and second innings off North senior Sabrina Rabin.

The Warriors finished with 11 hits – all in the first five innings – as Waubonsie scored five unanswered runs to pull away from a 1-1 tie at the end of the first inning.

“I think they just came back with a fresh approach today, just cleared their minds, and that’s what we’ve been working on with them, just letting it go,” Waubonsie coach Valerie Wood said of her team’s bounce-back performance. “They let it go today. They were just relaxed at the plate, ready to hit, ready to play.”

A common thread in North’s losses Tuesday and Wednesday was too many popouts and lazy flyballs, making for easy outs for the opposition. That’s uncharacteristic for a North lineup with ample proven firepower.

“These girls are as talented as it gets, as experienced as it gets,” Poulin said. “We have to get them back to being confident and aggressive but playing smart, and we need to do that as quickly as possible.”

Poulin had an extended postgame heart-to-heart with the team afterward on the outfield grass, and players followed with a long chat among themselves before departing. Brodner, who had two of North’s three hits on the day, said the players pledged to do some soul-searching leading up to today’s game at Wheaton Warrenville South. 

“Individually, we’re thinking of something we each can work on,” Brodner said. “We’re going to clarify it tomorrow so everyone knows what each other’s going to work on, and we’re going to help each other so we can come out and win tomorrow.”

On an otherwise agitating afternoon, a prom invitation involving two of his favorite athletes helped lighten Poulin’s spirits. Johnny Davern – who Poulin coached during basketball season – is asking North second baseman Kaitlyn Waslawski to the dance.

“Johnny Davern’s one of the more impressive people I’ve come across coaching, as a student, as a student-athlete, as a teammate,” Poulin said. “He’s a very impressive young man, and Kaitlyn is along the same lines, honestly. … They know how to balance academics and athletics and social, and they’re mature kids. I hope they have a good time at prom.”

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