OTTAWA — Whether it was at the plate, from the pitchers' circle or defensively, the Marquette Lady Crusaders executed Saturday morning.
And that execution resulted in them getting a "W" against a quality opponent.
The Class 1A No. 8 state-rated Lady Crusaders capitalized on an error — leading to all three of their runs — by coming through with a pair of timely hits, rode an impressive outing from Makenna Tkach and made a key defensive play during their 3-1 win over the Reed-Custer Lady Comets in a nonconference contest at June Gross Field.
"That's a good team," Tkach said of Reed-Custer, ranked 20th in Class 2A according to the Illinois Coaches Association. "They beat us last year, so it was nice to come back and get a win this year. (This game will) help us for the postseason coming up."
Tkach cruised through the initial three innings, fanning eight of the nine batters she faced. Kelsi Dillon led off the top of the fourth for Reed-Custer (13-7) by lining a double down the left-field line. Following a strikeout, Haley Mazon singled to put runners on the corners with one out. The next batter was retired on a failed bunt attempt. The Lady Comets were then unable to execute a first-and-third play, as Marquette shortstop Ellen Wheatland cut off the throw to second base, chased down the runner toward first and applied the tag for the third out before the runner at third could score.
"We implemented that play halfway through the season," Lady Crusaders coach Dave Tkach said. "We knew what they were trying to do, so we were hoping we got the out before they got the run. (Ellen) got her about 20 feet from first base and the (third base) runner's like about eight feet from home. It was a big play."
Wheatland (2-for-3) then ignited the Marquette (16-4) offense in the bottom of the fourth inning with a one-out double over the right fielder's head. After Reed-Custer starter Meghan Faletti (3 1/3 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K) threw two pitches to Makena McConnaughhay, Lady Comets coach Ramsey Harkness summoned workhorse junior ace and Purdue University commit Antoinette Hill from first base to the circle.
McConnaughhay reached base on an infield error and on the throw Wheatland came in to score. With two outs, Marquette's Nos. 7 and 8 hitters, Hannah Cowie and Mallory Martini, delivered with back-to-back run-scoring singles to make it 3-0.
"We were making contact early on, and I told the girls, 'Keep on making contact, we'll find a hole,' " Coach Tkach said. "Wheatie got us going, and it started things. We've been leaving some girls on base in the tight games, and some of our losses we left too many on base. This game, we didn't. And we needed them (runs)."
"One (bad) inning. You know, just one inning we let up," Harkness said. "I thought Meghan Faletti started the game well. Hill (2 2/3 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 K) came in; those girls made a quick adjustment, sped their bats up and actually made contact three times in a row, and that's all they needed. They took advantage of our mistakes."
Reed-Custer, which stranded a trio of runners in scoring position, tallied its run in the sixth. With two outs, Faletti was hit by a pitch. Two batters later, she was brought in on a single by Michelle Mack.
Makenna Tkach allowed an earned run and seven hits with no walks and 14 strikeouts in her complete-game performance.
"I was throwing mostly riseballs and screwballs, so everything was kind of going up, and then when they started seeing them, I worked down and did more curveballs," the MA junior hurler said of her repertoire of pitches. "The defense was there, and the offense helped out, too."
"(Makenna) was on. ... That's probably one of the better games she pitched this season," Dave Tkach said of his daughter.
At June Gross Field, Ottawa
Marquette 3, Reed-Custer 1
REED-CUSTER (1) — Dillon ss 4-0-1-0, Faletti p/2b 2-1-0-0, Mazon 3b 3-0-2-0, Mack 2b/1b 3-0-1-1, Colclasure c 3-0-0-0, Hill 1b/p 3-0-1-0, Hamilton cf 3-0-1-0, Kmetz rf 3-0-0-0, Wolf lf 3-0-1-0. Totals 27-1-7-1.
MARQUETTE (3) — E. Owens c 3-0-1-0, Tkach p 3-0-0-0, Snook 1b 2-0-0-0, Wheatland ss 3-1-2-0, McConnaughhay 3b 3-1-0-0, McCallum lf 3-0-0-0, Cowie 2b 2-1-1-1, Martini dp 2-0-1-1, E. Thomas cf 0-0-0-0, A. Owens rf 2-0-0-0. Totals 23-3-5-2.
Reed-Custer (13-7) 000 001 0 — 1 7 1
Marquette (16-4) 000 300 x — 3 5 0
DPT — Reed-Custer 1, Marquette 0. LOB — Reed-Custer 6, Marquette 3. 2B — Dillon, Hamilton, Wheatland. HBP — Faletti (by Tkach). SB — Cowie. CS — Mazon.
Reed-Custer ip r er h bb k
Faletti (L, 0-2) 3.1 1 0 2 1 3
Hill 2.2 2 0 3 0 0
Marquette ip r er h bb k
Tkach (W, 14-4) 7.0 1 1 7 0 14