JOLIET – After being no-hit through four innings by Joliet Catholic Academy senior right-hander Kailey Kovas, the Minooka softball team scored twice in the top of the fifth Tuesday on Gabi Robles’ two-out single to claw back within 3-2.
The idea from the Indians’ viewpoint was hold ’em and come back in and get more runs.
However, reality sometimes spoils plans. The Angels, helped by some porous Minooka defense, erupted for nine runs in the fifth, with Jen Kriszka’s long sacrifice fly to center field finishing off JCA’s 12-2 nonconference victory.
“We are a young team and have a long way to go,” said Indians coach Mark Brown, whose team dropped to 6-10. “We’re just trying to get better every day.
“We made too many mistakes, and that’s been the story of our year. You give four or five outs an inning, and these good-hitting teams will make you pay. We’ve been doing that, and we haven’t been getting timely hitting ourselves.”
The Angels (10-4) have a lineup featuring contact hitters, plus speed to burn at the top of the order. Leadoff hitter Reilly Swanson can run, and 2-hitter Paige Callans, who swings from the left side, is devastating with her legs.
With the bases loaded and two outs in a scoreless game in the second, Callans pulled a ground ball that went off the first baseman’s glove for an error as two runs scored. Then Callans gambled on taking second, drew a throw and Swanson also scored.
In the nine-run inning, during which Minooka starter Lauren Smith exited, Callans beat out a roller along the first-base line to ignite the uprising and later hit a line drive into right-center field for a two-run single – for most. She legged it into a double, and a slight bobble later, she kept going to third, arriving well before the throw.
“We like to get the lead early, any way we can,” Callans said. “We’re usually on, then off for a little while, and then once we’re on again, we’re pretty much unstoppable.”
“It was a great sign to see us come back with all those runs,” JCA coach Tina Kinsella said. “We’re not the biggest lineup, but we find ways.”
Unleashing Callans at every opportunity helps.
“Paige is turning into a phenomenal baserunner,” Kinsella said. “She is developing her own sense of what she can do. She makes it easy for me [in the third-base coach’s box]. She is so lethal, all she has to do is slap it to the left side, or bunt, and she’s on base.”
In her first season as the head coach, Kinsella has the Angels taking an aggressive approach at the plate. If they see a strike on the first pitch, they usually attack it.
“We have not had many strikeouts this year,” Kinsella said. “We’ve been making good contact. I want the girls to hit the first good pitch they see. When you get behind in the count as a hitter, that’s when you usually get in trouble.”
An opposing pitcher can be in trouble whenever Callans puts the ball in play and then follows Swanson around the bases.
“Dean – I called her that because she’s our dean – has been working us a lot on fundamentals,” Callans said of Kinsella. “She has focused a lot on our hitting. We have been aggressive.”
Callans, Kriszka and Kendall Spreitzer had two hits for JCA. Freshman outfielder Annie Nudera singled to keep the three-run second alive and reached base three times. Caitlyn Spreitzer singled and squeezed home run.
On the flip side, Kovas has done a remarkable job in her first varsity season in the circle.
“We’re a new team this year, with me being in my first year on varsity,” she said. “We’re getting into a rhythm now.”
Kovas had Minooka batters off balance when she used her favorite pitch, the changeup.
“The coaches had the pitchers working on developing one strong pitch, and for me, it’s the changeup,” she said.
As any pitcher would, Kovas smiled at the mention of the run support she has been receiving.
“We have four or five games this week, and I plan to pitch Kailey in all of them,” Kinsella said. “It’s incredible what she has been doing. She is stepping in as a leader on the mound.
“She doesn’t say much, she just does her job. She gets her infielders and outfielders the opportunities to make plays.”