MAPLE PARK – The Kaneland softball team had DeKalb pitcher Katie Kowalski on the ropes.
Down two runs in the bottom of the sixth Thursday, the Knights had a prime opportunity – runners on first and third, one out – but Kaneland couldn’t muster the big hit, as Meg Cohrs lined out to second and Hayley Contorno struck out looking to end the rally.
Kowalski would set the Knights down 1-2-3 in the seventh as the Barbs escaped with a 3-1 win. The four-year starter for DeKalb (10-4, 1-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) finished with 11 strikeouts.
“Today, this was the best I’ve seen Katie throw in two years, to be honest,” DeKalb coach Jeff Davis said. “She had 11 strikeouts, only three hits. We were out there talking, I was like ‘That reminds me of Katie in ’11.’ She was striking out anywhere between eight and 13 kids per game.”
After getting out of the sixth-inning jam, Kowalski got two of the Knights (7-8, 0-2 NI Big 12 East) in the seventh – Angie Morrow and Rachel Goress – to strike out. Goress struck out looking to end the game, one of four times a Kaneland hitter took a called third strike.
“It’s very disappointing. They’re told to be a lot more aggressive than that and they stand there and watch,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “So until we change that habit, then we’re going to continue to struggle.”
One of the lone mistakes Kowalski made was when Kaneland’s Lanie Callaghan hit a pitch over the center field fence to lead off the fourth and give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
The Barbs got their three runs in the fifth off Kaneland starter Angie Morrow – all with two outs, on a two-run double by No. 3 hitter Sarah Friedlund, which scored freshman Erin Karasewski and Newport, and an RBI double by Lindsey Costliow, which plated Friedlund.
Morrow allowed seven hits in a complete game, walking three and striking out 10 Barbs hitters.
“After watching her the last couple games I thought we’d get a little better outing than that,” Willis said. “She was missing some spots. That inning where they scored, she missed two spots in a row where she wasn’t even supposed to throw a strike and she threw it right over the heart of the plate. It will hurt you.”
The Knights return to NI Big 12 East play today, when they visit Sycamore at 4:30 p.m.