BARTLETT – Wednesday afternoon’s softball game between St. Charles North and host Bartlett grew tense as the bottom of the seventh inning unfolded. It stayed that way after the final out, too.
The North Stars held off Bartlett’s rally for a 3-2, Upstate Eight Conference crossover win in a game that ended in controversy.
With runners at first and second base, two outs and North clinging to its 3-2 lead, Bartlett sophomore Alyssa Nowak grounded to North third baseman Erin Nemetz, whose cross-diamond throw prompted first baseman Abby Howlett to lunge to make the catch.
Nowak was called out, leading to an explosive reaction from Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith, who thought Howlett’s foot strayed from the bag. North coach Tom Poulin disagreed.
“That’s my guy – I love him,” Poulin said of Wolfsmith. “But I saw her foot on the bag. I was making sure. You’re going to make sure of that final out, so I’m staring at it because I know at the end you’re going to yell out ‘No bag,’ just to try to do something to keep that rally going.
“That’s the type of team, if you give them an inch, they’re going to take a yard. We almost gave them an inch there in the last inning, but I think [North pitcher Sabrina Rabin] did a great job throwing.”
Rabin worked only one 1-2-3 inning but kept Bartlett scoreless until the bottom of the seventh. She retired the first two Hawks in the inning before a walk, double and two singles – one of the bloop variety – led to Nowak’s game-ending groundout.
“We had three runs, so I knew I had some leeway if I needed it, and I did, I guess, need it in that last inning,” Rabin said. “But we had two outs, we just had to finish. Definitely just staying calm and relying on the defense.”
Bartlett (9-3, 3-1 UEC Valley) outhit the North Stars (6-4, 2-2 UEC River), 9-4, and got four hits from No. 3 hitter Kayla Haberstich.
“I thought we left runs on the field,” Wolfsmith said. “Part of that credit, a lot of that credit, goes to Sabrina, who threw a lot of good pitches in key situations with runners in scoring position. She induced popups, she got some strikeouts. It wasn’t until that final inning that I thought we got ourselves into a rhythm.”
All three North runs came in the top of the third. No. 9 batter Andrea Beal reached on an error to lead off the inning, then stole second. Rabin followed by lacing a run-scoring, opposite field single to left that was misplayed, allowing Rabin to streak to third base. She then scored on a bunt single by Kaitlyn Waslawski, who also stole a base and eventually scored on Howlett’s RBI groundout.
Other than that inning, North’s bats were relatively quiet against Bartlett right-hander Holly Pagan.
“We did just enough just to get it done,” Rabin said. “But we definitely could improve. There’s always things you could improve on, but I think we did what we needed to do and got a good win, so we’ll just keep building up on it.”
The North Stars are regrouping after a major blow came last week with the revelation that senior catcher Emily Brodner, an Illinois recruit, is off the team. Poulin said it wasn’t his decision, calling it “her personal reasons.”
Brodner was a middle-of-the-order threat in North’s lineup and a seasoned catcher. Poulin said “we’ll miss [Brodner] in the lineup, and we’ll miss her as a teammate,” but said the North Stars have solid options with which to retool.
“We’re fortunate to have some depth,” Poulin said. “I mean, Alex Millett is a starting varsity catcher anywhere. Sam Hausl’s a starting varsity catcher in my book. So we’ve got depth there. But it takes some getting used to. Luckily Sabrina and Alex are very, very close, and they work in the offseason, so she’s comfortable with Alex behind the plate.”