SOFTBALL: Manteno pulls it together, downs Coal City in I-8 action
MANTENO — This week has been one of the strangest Manteno has had in quiet some time.
It has committed uncharacteristic errors that have led to some surprising losses, only to turn around the next day and look somewhat like its old self again.
Friday was the perfect example. After a stunning loss to Homewood-Flossmoor on Thursday, the Panthers turned around 24 hours later and picked up an 8-2 victory against Coal City.
“We’re trying to find our rhythm, which is uncharacteristic of a team that has as many seniors and returners as we do,” Manteno coach Josh Carlile said. “It’s been a little frustrating being so inconsistent and not playing high quality softball game in and day out.
“Thursday against H-F, we gave up three runs on two balls that were hit in the infield, and we didn’t make any adjustments. The nice thing about this one was that the girls made some adjustments and did enough to win.”
Facing Manteno’s Kori Fricke is flat-out frightening, whether as an opposing pitcher or batter.
She has the power to blow a fastball right by you, but also the intelligence to mix her pitches and hit you with a changeup. And that’s just in the circle.
That part of her game was on display, as she tossed a complete game, giving up just five hits and striking out four batters.
“She came to me before the game and said she was mentally all in,” Carlile said. “She was ready to sort of flip-flop from what we had seen on Thursday as a team. Her approach was more business like this time, and I think it was important for her and the team that she played with that mentality.”
When it comes to her at the dish, she’s usually just swinging for contact and to advance baserunners. But she generates such power in her swing, the ball is almost guaranteed to take a ride over the fence.
That happened in the second inning as she sent a towering 3-run moonshot over the left-field fence that blew the game wide open.
“I was tried of just popping the ball in the air, so I moved up in the box a little bit,” Fricke said. “Honestly, I was just trying to hit the ball on the ground. But I swung, and I guess I kept my shoulders straight. This was a great bounce back game for us.”
Lanie Malone got Manteno on the board first with an RBI triple before later scoring on a sacrifice fly from Maddie Lacer for a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
RBI singles from Kaycie Wenzel and Lexi Bowdish pushed the lead to 4-0, before Fricke’s bomb capped off a 5-run second. A fielder’s choice pushed the final run across for Manteno in the third.
“We played really well up and down the lineup; things were much cleaner from the infield warm up to the final at-bat,” Carlile said. “The girls relied one another to get the job done, and it was a much better showing.”
Coal City’s two runs came in the top of the fifth after an RBI single from Madison Emerson and an RBI groundout from Madelaine Ragain.
“We were a little flat defensively which lead to (Manteno) putting up some runs,” Coal City coach Stephanie Harmon said. “Offensively, we were much stronger. Our approach at the plate was much better, and there’s a lot of good things to take away from this one.”
Following Fricke, Bowdish finished 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and an RBI.
Malone had a triple and an RBI while Lacer notched a single with an RBI.
For Coal City, Kaitlyn Jasper suffered the loss, allowing six hits and seven earned runs.
Emerson and Ragain each had an RBI.
Manteno returns to the field Monday in conference action at Streator. Coal City is back in action today at Prairie Central.
“I want us to walk on the field and shut the door in the first inning,” Harmon said. “We’ve had a hard time getting through first innings all season, and we’ve put ourselves behind by giving up runs. We need to shut it down defensively and rely on our offense, since that’s what’s holding us together right now.”