STREATOR — Any coach will tell you the key to winning softball games is as easy as combining good pitching with solid defense with a little timely hitting thrown in.
That was the case for Manteno in its Interstate Eight Conference game against Streator on Tuesday afternoon at the SHS Athletic Fields.
The Lady Panthers (10-1, 4-0), ranked No. 11 in the latest Illinois Coaches Association Class 3A poll and leaders in the I-8 South Division, used a three-hit shutout from all-state pitcher Kori Fricke, error-free fielding and a couple of RBI ground outs in the fourth and fifth innings, plus a three-run uprising in the seventh to blank the Lady Bulldogs 5-0.
Streator's trio of hits were a fourth inning single by sophomore Maddie Barichello, a fifth inning double by junior Grace Schmitz and a seventh inning double off the bat of freshman Faith Clift.
"I thought we played a pretty solid game despite the score," said Streator coach Dawn Williams. "I was happy with our defense, but I wish we could have hit the ball a little better. We struggled a little with pitch selection and we watched a couple called third strikes which was a little frustrating. (Fricke) is a really good pitcher, but I felt we could have been a little quicker with our hands against her."
Manteno pushed across what proved to be the only run they would need in the fourth as Ashley Mazur laced a leadoff single to left off of losing pitcher Anna Yanek, advanced to second on a base hit by Ashley Riner and scored after consecutive grounds outs by Madie Monk and Maddie Lacer. The Panthers made 2-0 in the fifth without the aid of a hit as Kaycie Wenzel drew a walk from starter then reliever Aubrey Durdan to leadoff the frame, stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a RBI ground out by Fricke.
"I thought we played fantastic defense today," said Manteno coach Josh Carlile. "I don't know if there was a ball that we didn't field cleanly or not get a lead runner. When the opportunities to get an out presented itself the girls just took it which was nice because we didn't hit the ball particularly well. Kori controlled her zones, she was hitting her spots and the defense was flawless behind her."
Fricke, who did not allow a runner past second base in the contest, coaxed 15 ground ball outs, including inducing a double play in the fourth, off the Streator bats while strike out five.
The visitors exploded for three runs in the seventh, starting with Delaney McDermott's pinch-hit laser single to right off of Yanek. After a bunt single by Wenzel and a fielder's choice, Lexi Bowdish smacked a two-run double to left center. Mazur then scored Bowdish with a bloop hit into left to end the day's scoring.
"We want to take good aggressive takes within our at-bats, getting our mindset that we are going to hit every single pitch that is thrown," said Carlile. "I don't think we did a really good job of that early, but I thought we did a better job with that every time through the order. McDermott came up there in a pinch-hitting role in the seventh and hit a rocket to right. I thought it was just a contagious thing from there."
In total, Durdan allowed just a pair of hits, one unearned run, walked one and struck out four in four innings of work, while Yanek surrendered eight hits, four earned runs and struck out four in three frames in the circle.
"In research I saw Manteno had a number of high-scoring games so far this season and I knew they had a good hard-hitting team," said Williams. "I was hoping by switching Durdan (a lefty) and Yanek (a righty), with a little difference in their speeds, it would be enough to throw them off-balance. It worked for until the seventh.
At SHS Athletic Fields
Manteno 5, Streator 0
MANTENO (5) — Wenzel 2b 3-2-2-0, Malone ss 3-0-1-0, Bowdish c 4-1-1-2, Fricke p 4-0-1-1, Mazur rf 4-1-2-0, Riner dp 4-0-1-0, Cureton flex/cf 0-0-0-0, Monk 1b 2-0-0-0, Michaels ph 1-0-0-0, Lacer 3b 3-0-1-1, Melia lf/pr 2-1-0-0, McDermott ph 1-0-1-0. Totals 31-5-10-5.
STREATOR (0) — Magana ss 3-0-0-0, Yanek 2b/p 3-0-0-0, Barichello c 3-0-1-0, Castillo dp 2-0-0-0, Clift cr/dp 1-0-1-0, A. Schmitz 3b 0-0-0-0, G. Schmitz 1b 2-0-1-0, Durdan cf/p 3-0-0-0, Aukland lf 2-0-0-0, Gubbels cf/rf 2-0-0-0, McClellan rf/2b 2-0-0-0. Totals 23-0-3-0.
Manteno (10-1, 4-0) 000 110 3 — 5 10 0
Streator (4-8, 2-3) 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
DP — Manteno 1. LOB — Manteno 7, Streator 3. 2B — Bowdish, Clift, G. Schmitz. SB — Wenzel, Malone, Fricke. SAC — Malone. HBP — G. Schmitz (by Fricke).
Manteno ip r er h bb k
Fricke (W) 7.0 0 0 3 0 5
Durdan 4.0 1 0 2 1 4
Yanek (L) 3.0 4 4 8 0 4