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Kaneland softball overcomes early hole to nip Sycamore

Kaneland catcher Mary Clausen waits at home to tag out Sycamore’s Paige Bjork in the first inning Friday. Kaneland beat Sycamore, 10-9.
Kaneland catcher Mary Clausen waits at home to tag out Sycamore’s Paige Bjork in the first inning Friday. Kaneland beat Sycamore, 10-9.

SYCAMORE – There was bright sunshine in Sycamore, but it wasn’t sunstroke that had Sycamore softball coach Jill Carpenter confused about the game’s progress Friday afternoon against Kaneland.

The Knights and Spartans played a twist-filled, argument-intensive game that was tough for even the participants to keep track of, especially without the scoreboard working. When all was sorted out, the Knights prevailed in a 10-9, comeback victory.

“It was so long, at the end there, when it was the sixth, I thought it was the seventh,” Carpenter said. “That’s how long the game was, so I was ‘All right, we’ve got one more inning to go.’ We had already played for like 2½ hours at that point. I think it’s hard when there’s that many runners and that many conversations that need to take place and stuff like, that but you’ve got to be better.”

Kaneland coach Brian Willis said the complexion of the game felt like slow-pitch softball.

“If you wanted to see the whole book of softball, today was the day to see it,” Willis said. 

The tone for a marathon afternoon was set early as the teams combined for 10 runs in the first inning.

After Kaneland (8-8, 1-2 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) scored three in the top of the first, the Spartans put on an offensive display in the bottom half, driving Knights starter Anissa Becker from the game. The Spartans (4-8, 1-2 NI Big 12 East) mashed nine hits in the inning, including two apiece from the top two batters in the order, Lyndsey Coddington and Brooke English.

Willis summoned Courtney Davis to relieve Becker, and she stabilized the game in a hurry. After allowing a hit to English – the first batter she faced – Davis didn’t yield another in her remaining three-plus innings of work. She was replaced in the sixth inning.

“She picked her teammate up,” Willis said of Davis. “Anissa came out without her best stuff today and was hit pretty hard. They’re a good-hitting team. Courtney was called upon, she came in and did exactly what we hoped she’d do and what we knew she was capable of.”

Sycamore led, 7-3, after the first inning, but the Knights chipped away against Spartans senior pitcher Taylor Zak, finally overtaking Sycamore with a four-run top of the sixth. The rally was capped with a two-out, bases loaded single by second baseman Morgan Weber that scored Morgan Sikon and Angie Morrow.

Weber, a promising freshman from Sugar Grove, had plenty of time to mull the critical at-bat as Willis disputed an overturned call at the plate after Kaneland’s Mary Clausen tried to squeeze a runner home with a bases load bunt.

“My confidence has gone up a lot, it really has, in the past couple weeks,” Weber said. “Just hitting the ball and just staying low, watching the ball.”

Weber is turning into another reliable run-producer for Kaneland to go with veteran sluggers Meg Cohrs (2 for 5, double, three RBIs) and Lanie Callaghan (2 for 4 with a double, walk, RBI).

“She came through in a big way for us,” Willis said of Weber. “As long as her and the other girls continue to hit like they’re hitting, we’re going to be fine.”

Davis, an off-speed specialist, cooled down Sycamore’s bats with plenty of movement and location until a spate of wildness in the bottom of the fifth prompted Willis to turn to Morrow down the stretch.

“We all believe in each other,” Davis said. “I knew if we got out of that [bottom of the first] it would come around. I think getting out of that really helped us.”

While Kaneland used three pitchers, Carpenter stayed with Zak, who battled through 13 hits and eight walks for the Knights.

“She’s a horse,” Carpenter said. “She threw all seven innings against Morris yesterday and we said ‘How are you feeling?’ and she said ‘I feel good’ so I said ‘All right, we’re running you back out there again today.’ She pitched well enough to win. We just didn’t take care of business for her. That’s unfortunate for her and for the team.”

With Kaneland leading, 10-9, Sycamore right fielder Jordyn Shultz led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, but a baserunning gaffe aided Morrow, who retired the next six batters to close the game.

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