Junior pitcher Angie Morrow is the unquestioned staff ace for Kaneland, but the Knights' search for a reliable No. 2 to complement Morrow has been less definitive.
Sophomore Courtney Davis made her case Friday with an impressive relief outing that kept the Knights afloat in a 10-9, Northern Illinois Big 12 East win at Sycamore.
Davis, relieving Anissa Becker in the bottom of the first, allowed a hit to the first batter she faced against the Spartans, then went three-plus innings without yielding a hit as the Knights dug out of a 7-3, first inning hole.
Davis features plenty of movement on her ball and is often able to induce hitters to offer at pitches near or in the dirt.
"My key is just to stay calm, not try to throw super-hard," Davis said. "Just try to get the location. I trust my pitch-calling that if I get the location, it's going to get an out."
After being inserted into the Knights' batting order when she came into Friday's game, Davis also added a pair of hits to Kaneland's comeback cause.
Davis' control faltered in the bottom of the fifth, when Kaneland coach Brian Willis inserted Morrow for the stretch run.
"Courtney came in with good stuff," Willis said. "She tired there at the end. Angie pitched [Thursday], I didn't really want to use her, but for a couple innings she was strong enough to come in and finish it off for us."
After seventh inning defensive miscues proved costly in Wednesday's 9-8 loss at Geneva, Batavia coach Lupe Castellanos mused about how contagious errors can be.
"Once they make one mistake, I think they get a little bit nervous and whatnot – I think the pressure gets on, and then it's like 'Don't hit the ball to me,' " Castellanos said. "But I coach to try to want the ball, try to want to make a play. At that point, somebody's got to step up and just try to make a play to try and kill the rally there."
Geneva improved to 5-2 in conference play with Saturday's 15-8 win against South Elgin, positioning the Vikings to be a potential dark horse in the Upstate Eight Conference River race.
"We're going to head into a stretch of our schedule that's going to determine our fate in the conference," Vikings coach Greg Dierks said.
Of particular importance for Geneva will be a four-game stretch between May 6 and May 13 when the Vikings will play UEC River contenders St. Charles East and St. Charles North twice each.
IN THE GROOVE
Tess Hupe, St. Charles East, Sr., OF
What she did: Hupe produced seven hits Saturday in a trio of Saints wins – against Maine South, Machesney Park Harlem and Hoffman Estates – as East won its home invitational.
Morgan Weber, Kaneland, Fr., IF
What she did: Weber continued her impressive freshman season with a two-out, bases loaded single in the top of the sixth inning Friday that scored two runs and allowed the Knights to overtake host Sycamore for a 10-9 win.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Better play to the last out against Geneva.
As Kaneland found out earlier this month, protecting a late lead against Geneva can be tricky business. Batavia allowed six runs to Geneva in the bottom of the seventh on Wednesday as the Vikings surged past their archival, 9-8.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether St. Charles East or St. Charles North commands early crosstown bragging rights.
The Upstate Eight Conference River heavyweights are scheduled for their first conference meeting of the year today at East. The return matchup at North is slated for May 20.
COACH SLY SAYS
Give Batavia credit for playing very competitive softball in recent weeks.
The Bulldogs had a rocky start to the season but are showing they're not a team to be taken lightly in the second half of the season. Considering the young talent in the Bulldogs' lineup, this looks like a program that should be on the rise in the next season or two.