St. Charles North senior softball catcher Sam Hausl launched a two-run home run in the second inning of the North Stars' May 6 home game against St. Charles East.
Four innings later, Hausl made a different kind of contact during a dugout conversation with third baseman Amanda James.
"I was like, 'This is our last game against East,' " Hausl said. "I didn't even realize it until the sixth inning. So I was like, 'We are not losing this game.' It was just the best feeling ever. Especially that walk-off. It was amazing."
Although Hausl's blast provided an early cushion, the North Stars ultimately needed to rally to defeat the Saints, 4-3, to take control of an Upstate Eight Conference River Division race the Saints claimed in both 2014 and 2015.
"We had huge energy. The energy was contagious," James said. "Everybody was in it to win it."
That especially rang true of Hausl, who felt dialed in throughout the afternoon – her senior moment aside.
Moments after James' bases-loaded, infield single in the bottom of the seventh provided the winning margin, North coach Tom Poulin lauded his team for playing "tournament softball." As in the IHSA state tournament.
The North Stars advanced to a Class 4A supersectional in 2015, and Hausl had no problem agreeing with her coach's assessment.
"The feeling while I was playing, just the energy and the intensity, that was what it felt like last year," Hausl said. "And especially the little plays and everyone coming through doing their job, it definitely felt like tournament softball."
Turns out Hausl's initial objective during her second-inning at-bat took a prompt detour.
"She missed a bunt sign the pitch before (the home run)," Poulin said. "I didn't even tell her. Silly me, you know. Letting her swing. So then the next pitch, she goes deep. So that tells you sometimes: overcoaching."
Yes; it's Iowa: Here's to the heartland.
The Cougars returned to Midwest League Western Division play this week after inter-division matchups with the Eastern teams spanning April and May. The stretch included a six-game trip to Dayton (Ohio) and Bowling Green (Kentucky), far from the usual, closer-to-home treks the club endures during a 140-game season.
"It's a good thing they're young, because as a staff, I know we feel it," Cougars manager Mike Benjamin said, gesturing to his players in the clubhouse. "But they're young, and it's what it's going to be. You're going to have early games after night games and you're going to show up some place and play. So it's a good teaching tool for them."
The Cougars are in the midst of a seven-game, Iowa road trip to Cedar Rapids and Burlington this week. They are set to return home for three games against Peoria from May 17 to 19 before taking a six-game trip to Wisconsin and Peoria.
• Kevin Druley is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinDruley.