ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles North softball team saved its sharpest performance of the season for its marquee opponent.
North, playing “a complete game” for the first time this spring in coach Tom Poulin’s estimation, maintained its recent mastery of St. Charles East with a 5-1 road win Tuesday in Upstate Eight Conference River play.
“East is a great team,” North center fielder Andrea Beal said. “They say this is the year we’re going to beat North. We’ve just got to keep doing our own thing and pushing.”
North (12-6, 8-2 UEC River) was impressive on all fronts, particularly on defense, which has been an occasional sore spot for the North Stars. In the bottom of the sixth, North pitcher Sabrina Rabin snared Sarah Collalti’s rocket, comeback line drive, third baseman Erin Nemetz squeezed a liner from Olivia Cheatham and second baseman Kaitlyn Waslawski slickly handled a one-hop smash from Kate Peterburs, throwing her out at first.
Some three-up, three-down.
“That’s the team we expected to be from day one, at least attempting to make those plays,” Poulin said. “And the routine ones need to be routine. I was just happy with our focus today. The girls are confident over here or over at our place. It doesn’t matter where we play them, the girls are confident. You saw it in their eyes today that they were going to give us their best effort.”
East (18-5 , 7-2 UEC River) was hitless against Rabin until right fielder Katie Kolb led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. Kolb scored with two outs on North’s lone error of the afternoon, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
But the North Stars’ lead swelled to the final margin in the top of the sixth on a two-run double from Waslawski, one of six hits North managed off East senior Haley Beno.
North’s first three runs came in the top of the third as Beal, Rabin and Mickey Goetz strung three straight singles together to open the inning, and Alex Millett and Abby Howlett added RBI sacrifice flies. That outburst was a relief for North, which stranded a runner at third base in each of the first two innings.
Despite playing on what Poulin described as a “slow track” given the rain earlier Tuesday, North challenged East freshman catcher Rylee Stout extensively on the basepaths, experiencing widespread success until Rabin was called out at second on a steal try in the top of the fifth. The speedster was 21 for 21 on steals for the season – including one earlier in the game – until the controversial call, which drew an argument from Poulin.
“[Umpires] make mistakes, everybody’s going to make mistakes,” Rabin said. “ … It wasn’t really affecting me. Yeah, I’d like to be safe on every one, but it’s not anything that I can control.”
Rabin made few mistakes in the circle. Kolb’s double was the only hit she allowed until Saints freshmen Jordan Hieber and Stout singled consecutively with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Rabin was proud of her outing.
“Everybody’s going to be nervous facing a good lineup but I knew that if I just pitched the way that I know how to pitch then I would be fine and my defense would back me up,” Rabin said.
East coach Kelly Horan thought the Saints mostly made solid contact, saying “What a day not to find the hole, huh?”
“These games are important to play but the only game that really matters if you find the holes or not is the third one,” Horan said, referencing a potential postseason meeting. “That’s what we’re aiming for. They’re aiming for the same thing, and that’s what we’re going to go for.”
The teams are scheduled to meet again May 20 at North in a late-season showdown that could determine the conference crown.
“It’s a big conference win – that’s what it boils down to,” Poulin said. “They’re the toughest opponent that we’ll see within our division even though there are other very good teams. So this is a big conference win. We still have to play them again, and we know that our best is needed to beat St. Charles East.”