NEW LENOX – Although this spring hasn’t necessarily been conducive to having a good time on the softball field, Lincoln-Way Central has made the most out of the chaotic schedule that’s the result of the cold conditions.
And why shouldn’t the Knights be happy? After dropping their opener to Marist, coach Jeff Tarala’s squad has won eight straight games with the latest coming Friday when they beat rival Lincoln-Way West, 9-3, in a Southwest Suburban Red Conference road game.
Central (8-1, 2-0) has averaged 8.75 runs a game while yielding 2.38 during its current win streak. Other than a 5-4 victory over Sandburg, all of its triumphs were by four or more runs.
“This just shows that we have really good players who’ve been doing this for a long time,” Tarala said. “Ashley [Platek] is a good pitcher who also put on a hitting display today. She hadn’t shown her true capability in hitting this year yet, so this was kind of a breakout game. It would be nice to get everybody going at the same time, but we’ve been hitting the ball pretty well, considering the weather, so hopefully we can keep it up.
“It always starts with the pitching since it’s easier to hit when you’re scoring runs. The pitching has been great so far and that sets the tone. The girls are more comfortable at the plate and have been doing a nice job up and down the lineup. They’re a good group of girls.”
The Knights, who collected 15 hits, broke things open by scoring six times in the sixth inning after the Warriors (3-5, 0-1) scored twice in the fifth to pull to close to within 3-2.
Ashley Platek picked up the win after allowing seven hits and one earned run during the first five frames. Amanda Weyh pitched the last two innings and allowed no hits and one run.
In addition, Platek had a big day on offense, going 3 for 4 with four RBIs after collecting hits in her final three at-bats with the big blow being a three-run homer that removed all doubts.
Paige Sanders was 3 for 3 with three runs scored, Weyh went 2 for 3 with three runs driven in, Gabriella Gedville was 3 for 5 with an RBI and Torince Muczynski went 2 for 4 for Central, which had seven batters who collected hits.
“We have a very good hitting team,” Platek said. “We’re really close, and we’re all friends so we have good chemistry on the field. We all have the same mindset and want to win. And even though it was raining at the start, we were still having a fun time.
“We all love each other and cheer each other on and in practice we go to get stuff done but still have fun doing it. That’s the most important thing about softball: If you have fun, you’re going to play good.”
Central moved in front for good in third when Sanders reached on an infield single, Gedville followed with another infield hit and one out later, Weyh got an RBI single to left. Platek made it 2-0 when she followed with a single to center.
The Knights took a 3-0 lead in the in the next inning when Sanders reached on a two-out infield single and came home on Gedville’s double to left.
“The weather has been difficult and some times it’s hard to get outside to practice,” Sanders said. “But we have the drive and know how to work hard and that’s what keeps us going. We’re motivated and want to win bad. We’re a family and have each other’s back, and we’re a unit that works as one. If someone has a bad day, the rest of the team picks her up.
“It’s always a good game when we play a Lincoln-Way team. The most important quality of our team is we know how to work hard but also how to have fun.”
The Warriors made things interesting in the fifth inning when Sarah Taheny (2 for 2) led off with a double and scored on a passed ball. Abby Baez drew a walk but was forced for the second out.
But Molly Ryan (2 for 4) and Dani Callahan (2 for 4, two RBIs) followed with singles to make it a one-run game.
However, Central opened up its sixth with consecutive singles from Muczynski, Isabella Wilkerson and Sanders to load the bases before Gianna Niemeier drove in a run with a one-out single and Weyh bounced into a fielder’s choice to score another run.
Platek then followed with her three-run homer to left to break things open.
“They’re a good team,” Warriors coach Heather Novak said. “From our standpoint, it was a little disappointing since we’re better than what we showed. So we’re going to keep working hard and keep getting better. We’re taking it day by day and doing what we can and we’re all in a similar situation. There’s a lot of things that we need to work on and get better at.
“One through nine with our hitters, this is one of our best lineups we’ve had. For the most part our defense has been playing excellent defense. But we’re going to have to have everybody on board to have success this season. Everybody has to do what’s best for the team and focus on doing the little things and playing the game the right way to put ourselves in a position where we can win ballgames.”