RURAL STREATOR — In some cases, but not always, a strong start is better than a strong finish.
The Marquette Academy softball club scored five runs in the first two innings and eventually added two more, then held off a big Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell rally in the seventh frame to capture a 7-4 Tri-County Conference victory here at Woodland High School on Thursday afternoon.
Makenna Tkach at the plate collected two hits, one of them driving in a run in a second-inning rally and the other a two-run single in the sixth, all the while cruising through the first six innings in the circle, allowing no runs and just two hits to help lead the way. Allie Snook was also tough at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two runs batted in, while Ellen Wheatland rapped two hits, including an RBI double in the first, and Abby Owens two hits for the Lady Crusaders, now 5-3 on the season and 2-0 in the T-C.
For the Warriors, Elise Kane highlighted the four-run seventh against MA reliever Mallory Martini by smacking a two-out, bases-loaded triple, then scoring the fourth run on a wild pitch. But that was all as Tkach, who struck out 14 in an 8-2 MA win on Tuesday in Ottawa, returned to record the final out and drop WFC to 5-4, 3-2 in the league.
"Makenna gave us an outstanding outing again," said Marquette coach Dave Tkach. "She went a little deeper in some counts, but that was because she was trying to get them to bite on some other pitches. She maintained her composure very well and that allowed her to fight her way back from those counts and find her zones, to catch them off-guard when they put the ball in play. She made them hit her pitch, but we played good defense behind her and had some key hits with two outs, too. The seven runs we got weren't easy ones to get. We had to earn them.
"We have a few hitters that are going to have to start making better contact, and that day is going to have to come sooner than later to be here for the postseason. All our kids can put the ball in play, but some still need to find their pitch in their zone."
Marquette was finding its pitches in the first against WFC starter Emily Friese, starting with a leadoff walk to Emily Owens. Owens later scored on the first two-bagger by Snook, who then stole second and later scored on a two-base hit by Wheatland.
In the visitors' second, a walk to Hannah Cowie, a single by Abby Owens and an infield single by Tkach plated one run. After Owens scored on an error, Snook made it 5-0 with another double.
That appeared to be nearly enough for Tkach, who surrendered just a single to Shea Moritz and a walk to Sydnee Plesko in the second frame and a double to Audrey Jenkins in the third. The junior right-hander retired 10 of the last 11 hitters she faced.
After three scoreless, two-hit innings by August Gillman kept MA from adding on, Tkach provided some insurance against Friese back on the rubber before turning things over to Martini, following two singles and an error with her own two-run single.
But the Warriors wouldn't quit.
Against Martini, who spun a scoreless seventh on Tuesday, singles by Gillman, Plesko and Kaitlyn Walter loaded the bags with two out, and Kane unloaded them with a sharp liner that rolled to the fence in center field. Tkach returned to the circle and gave up the wild pitch that scored the speedy Kane, but got the last out to lock up the win.
"The score today was different than Tuesday, but we still haven't made the adjustments that we need to," said WFC coach Jordan Farris. "We like to think we can grind something out if we're putting the ball on the ground, but we're still hitting too many balls in the air, and against a pitcher like Tkach who can put a pitch anywhere she wants, you have to get on top of the ball. We didn't do a good job of that today. Marquette is still a really solid fundamental team, a well-coached team that does the small things well, and that's what it takes to win ballgames. Tkach is a heckuva pitcher. A heckuva player, she hits well, too.
"We'll take these two games against a tough opponent and know that seeing them will make us tougher as we go through the season to the postseason. We look at this as a great learning opportunity."
At Woodland, rural Streator
Marquette 7, Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell 4
MARQUETTE (7) — E. Owens c 3-1-0-0, Tkach p-2b 4-1-2-3, Snook 1b 3-1-3-2, A. Thomas pr 0-0-0-0, McConnaughhay 3b 4-0-0-0, Wheatland ss 4-0-2-1, McCallum lf 3-0-0-0, Bowden rf 1-0-0-0, Cowie dp 1-1-0-0, Martini 2b-p 2-0-1-0, E. Thomas cf-lf 1-0-0-0, Cottingham ph 0-1-0-0, A. Owens rf-cf 2-2-2-0. Totals 30-7-10-6.
WFC (4) — Kane ss 4-1-1-3, Jenkins 2b 4-0-1-0, Kinderman 3b 3-0-0-0, Friese p-dp 3-0-0-0, Moritz rf 3-0-1-0, Gillman dp-p 3-0-1-0, Dunahee lf 0-0-0-0, Schwahn cr 0-1-0-0, Plesko 1b 2-1-1-0, Essman c 1-0-0-0, Easton c 2-0-0-0, Walter cf-dp 3-1-1-0 . Totals 28-4-6-3.
Marquette (5-3, 2-0) 230 002 0 — 7 10 2
WFC (5-4, 3-2) 000 000 4 — 4 6 3
LOB - Marquette 6, WFC 4. 2B - Snook 2, Wheatland, Jenkins. 3B - Kane. SAC - E. Thomas, A. Owens. SB - Snook, Wheatland.
Marquette ip r er h bb k
Tkach (W) 6.1 0 0 2 1 6
Martini 0.2 4 4 4 0 1
Friese (L) 4.0 7 3 8 3 4
Gillman 3.0 0 0 2 1 3