STREATOR — Throwing a new wrinkle into a game plan is more often than not a pretty good idea, though you never know when it's going to backfire on you.
The Streator High School softball club rallied from a 1-0 deficit with two runs in the fourth inning, but Wilmington answered with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to regain the edge. In an effort to stay within a run for what might be her team's last at-bat, coach Dawn Williams took a chance and removed solid sophomore pitcher Ellie Magana for hard-throwing junior Anna Yanekto face the heart of the Wildcats order. The visitors responded with five runs to end up with an 8-2 Interstate Eight Conference victory here Monday afternoon.
For the game, Wilmington collected 13 hits off the two SHS hurlers, six of those for extra bases, in support of winning pitcher Jenny Kucharski and her seven-hit, no-walk, five-strikeout performance in the circle. Yanek and Grace Schmitz each had two of the hosts' safeties.
"We tried a little different pitching strategy at the end because the 3-4-5 hitters had made good contact off Ellie," said Streator coach Dawn Williams, "so we brought in Anna to give them a different look to throw them off a bit. Unfortunately, they were good enough hitters to make contact again, and with a couple errors we had it opened up the game for them.
"We also tried playing some smallball today in a few situations trying to work a bunt in, and that didn't work out as we had planned, though we had some hits and still moved some runners, and that's a positive. ... We're still striving for that consistency, to string hits together and score more runs. Baby steps. There are things we do well in the game and mistakes that we make where we realize after what we did wrong.
"That will come with more experience."
In what initially looked to be a pitchers' duel, the 'Cats grabbed the lead in the top of the first on Magana when Bella Egizio singled, stole second and scored on a double to right-center by Jenny Kucharski. Magana settled in for three straight scoreless frames while her teammates got her the edge with two runs in the home fourth.
Three straight singles by Grace Schmitz, Aubrey Durdan and Alivia Adkins plated one run and, later with the bases loaded and two out, Adkins scored on a wild pitch for the lead.
But Wilmington bounced right back in the next half-inning, using a triple by Egizio, single by Ava Narine and a two-run double by Katie Kucharski to jump back in front. After No. 2 hitter Narine led off the visitors' seventh with a double, Williams made the change in the circle, only to have the two Kucharskis and Kiley Sowa collect consecutive hits for the first three tallies of the frame. Two Streator errors later added to the five-run uprising.
"This was coming off prom weekend for us, so in the first inning we wanted to come out focused, produce a run, and we got it done. That's what we wanted to see," said Wilmington coach Jack Skole. "That got us into the game and we had some other chances, but couldn't get that one hit we needed until the fourth. As the game went on, we gradually became more aggressive, didn't try to pull every pitch, and that helped us out a lot.
"Jenny pitched a great game for us, too. We know Streator can hit and we kept reminding the girls to be on their toes, and they did. They stayed focused and made some nice plays behind her."
At King Field, Streator
Wilmington 8, Streator 2
WILMINGTON (8) — Egizio 2b 4-2-2-0, Narine cf 4-2-2-0, K. Kucharski 3b 4-1-3-3, J. Kucharski p 4-0-2-1, Sinchak cr 0-1-0-0, Sowa ss 4-1-2-2, Mann c 3-0-0-0, Sliwski cr 0-0-0-0, Gorges 1b 4-1-1-1, Feil rf 4-0-0-0, Van Duyne dp 4-0-1-0, Cooper lf 0-0-0-0. Totals 35-8-13-7.
STREATOR (2) — Yanek ss-p 4-0-2-0, Magana p-ss 4-0-0-0, Barichello c 4-0-1-0, McClellan cr 0-0-0-0, Schmitz 1b 4-1-2-0, Durdan cf 3-0-1-0, Adkins 2b 3-1-1-1, Aukland 3b 3-0-0-0, Gubbels lf 3-0-0-0, Davis rf 2-0-0-0. Totals 30-2-7-1.
Wilmington (6-11, 4-6) 100 020 5 — 8 13 3
Streator (6-16, 3-8) 000 200 0 — 2 7 2
LOB — Wilmington 7, Streator 8. 2B — K. Kucharski 2, Narine, J. Kucharski, Gorges, Yanek. 3B — Egizio. SB — Egizio, Sliwski. HBP — Davis (by J. Kucharski).
Wilmington ip r er h bb k
J. Kucharski (W) 7.0 2 2 7 0 5
Magana (L, 2-6) 6.0 4 4 10 1 2
Yanek 1.0 4 3 3 0 0