LOCKPORT – Only one team can win on the scoreboard, but Friday’s Southwest Suburban Blue softball showdown sent both sides home feeling good about where they stand.
In a game delayed about 50 minutes before it began, Lincoln-Way East scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to erase a 1-0 deficit and slip past Lockport, 2-1. That marked the Griffins’ 10th straight victory over the Porters in a streak that began in the 2014 sectional semifinals, but this one was especially tight.
“We have to see each other probably two more times,” Lockport coach Marissa Chovanec said, referencing the rematch in conference play and a potential matchup in the postseason. “Each time we inch closer. If an inch is what it takes, I’ll take an inch.”
It wasn’t only one inch, but the margin was minimal when Lockport’s left-handed hitting Taylor Herschbach lofted a fly ball well beyond but a few feet outside the right-field foul pole leading off the bottom of the third inning. Then in the fifth, with two runners in scoring position, the Porters’ Gracie Voulgaris belted a line drive off the top of the left-field fence, but a foot or two foul.
“I’m pleased with how we hit the ball today,” said Chovanec, whose team was facing East’s ace right-hander, Alex Storako. Matching her pitch for pitch was Porters sophomore right-hander Gianna Bauer, who turned in a gutsy performance in more ways than one.
Bauer, who bats left-handed, was hit by a pitch on her pitching arm in the bottom of the second inning and was in some pain. Chovanec said she did not know immediately if Bauer would be able to continue in the circle. She did, though, and finished with a six-hitter.
“Gianna threw a good game,” Chovanec said. “This is what we expect from her. She was composed and our defense was pretty good most of the game. There weren’t too many gappers.”
In the top of the third inning, Voulgaris, the Porters’ catcher, gunned down Paige Geraghty attempting to steal. She and second baseman Nikki Visvardis collided when the throw arrived. Lockport first baseman Tara McElligott, who hits third in Chovanec’s lineup, said something that met with disapproval from the home plate umpire, who tossed her from the game.
The battle between the big-time rivals was that spirited.
“This was a very intense game,” Storako said. “Lockport has a great team. These big games are my favorites. I love the competition.”
“You always know it’s going to be a great game when we play Lockport,” said East coach Elizabeth Pawlicki, whose team scored a huge 1-0 victory over Marist a few days earlier. “They’re a very competitive team. We have to be in these types of games to get ready for the postseason.”
Storako allowed five hits. Lauren Johnson had three singles, including a second-inning hit up the middle that gave the Porters (6-2, 1-1) their 1-0 lead. Storako struck out eight, four in the third inning, and walked one.
East (8-1, 2-0) drew even in the fifth when Lindsay LaDere singled and Alli Jaquith ripped a two-out triple over the head of Porters center fielder Taylor Schingler. In the sixth, the Griffins’ Lauren Hunter hit a one-out sacrifice fly following a leadoff three-base error to make it 2-1.
“I was just thinking, try to make contact and help get a rally going for the team,” Jaquith said of her game-tying triple. “We faced them [Porters] three times last year, and we knew this would be a hard game. It’s always hard to beat a good team three times.”
After East took the lead, Schingler led off the bottom of the seventh with a solid single to center field and advanced to second on a wild pitch with nobody out. But Storako made the big pitches, retiring the Porters’ 1-2-3 hitters on two pop-ups and a strikeout.
“At this point, I really trust my defense,” Storako said of getting the two pop-ups. “It makes life a whole lot easier when we can get outs like that. I’m really proud of it.”