SOFTBALL: Bishop McNamara outlasts Reed-Custer in nine inning battle
BRAIDWOOD — With Bishop McNamara and Reed-Custer coming off tough losses, a win was of the utmost importance just to maintain some early season footing.
Seven innings weren’t enough, so they went the Major League Baseball route — a complete nine innings.
Once the dust finally settled, the Irish came through with two more clutch hits than the Comets, leading them to a 9-6 victory on Wednesday.
“We’re definitely going through our struggles right now,” Bishop McNamara coach Laura Harms said. “[Reed-Custer pitcher] Antoinette [Hill] is a really good pitcher, and she mixes her pitches inside and out really well. I told the girls that she’s not afraid to attack you, and we didn’t have the attack mentality at the plate that I was hoping for. But we made good adjustments in the end.”
Built Ford tough
After Kara Kleinert got the Irish on the board with an RBI single up in the top of the second inning to score Gillian McDermott, Riley Ford took it upon herself to carry the offensive load.
With two runners on base and an out in the third, she beat out the double play attempt to end the inning and scored Leigha Campe for a 2-1 Irish lead.
Two innings later, after a Madi Bylak tripled to start the inning, Ford ripped an RBI single through the right side of the infield to score Bylak and push the lead to 3-1.
She finished the day 3 for 4 with three singles, two runs and an RBI.
“Riley was our DP (designated player) in our first couple of games, and now she just keeps hitting,” Harms said. “So, I took her our of the No. 5 spot and moved up to No. 2. She looks so nonchalant, but she continues making plays and racking up the hits. I don’t think she feels any pressure, and she’s stepped up to earn her her spot.”
Bishop McNamara pushed its lead up to 6-1 in the top of the seventh after Campe scored on a passed ball, followed by a two-run bomb from McDermott over the right-center-field wall.
Up to that point, Reed-Custer’s only run came back in the bottom of the second on a bases-loaded walk.
“It’s easy sometimes to be let down when your downs that many runs in the last inning,” Reed-Custer coach Taylor Gunier said. “But I kept reminding the girls that they’re still in the game, and there’s a chance. Stay positive, and good things will happen.”
If only Gunier knew how right she was about to be. The Comets stayed patient and drew a walk followed by back-to-back hit by pitches to load the bases.
Maddie McPherson battled to a full count and drew the walk to plate a run and cut the game down to 6-2.
That set the stage for Kelsi Dillon to step up, and she didn’t wait as she saw the first pitch barreling down and sent it over the left-center-field fence for the game-tying grand slam.
“I crossed my fingers and said, ‘Come on,’ as the ball was in the air,” Gunier said. “It was a great at-bat, and it was all set up because everyone else did their job to make that happen. That one at-bat brought us back to life. She’s a tough player, and it was a great hit.”
“I’m pretty sure I said, ‘I can’t believe that just happened,’ to myself at least three times,” Harms said.
After both teams went scoreless in the eighth, Bishop McNamara had enough and decided to put the game away.
With two runners on, Jaelyn Vickery came through with an RBI single through the right side to score Ford and put the Irish back ahead 7-6.
Two batters later, Kleinert stepped back to the dish and gave the Irish extra insurance runs as she smoked a two-run single up the left side to cap the final score.
Kleinert finished the day 3 for 5 with three singles and three RBIs.
“She had a lot of big, hard hits,” Harms said. “I saw her draw a line in the dirt, and I thought she was telling the umpire where the ball was. And she told me that she was showing herself where the ball was. Therefore, she made an adjustment and took a step off the plate to give herself a chance. And sure enough, she crushed it.”
In addition to Ford and Kleinert, McDermott finished 2 for 4 with a home run, three runs scored and two RBIs.
Vickery finished 2 for 5 with the go-ahead RBI.
For Reed-Custer, Dillon was 1 for 5 with the grand slam and four RBIs. Kaylee Thompson was 1 for 2 with a double and an RBI, and Faletti had an RBI.
“We gave up on ourselves Tuesday, and we looked like a much better team this time,” Gunier said. “We showed up with a different mindset and stayed positive all game.”
Both teams are back in action at home today. Bishop McNamara hosts Ridgewood. Reed-Custer welcomes Prairie Central to town.