JOLIET – After Erin Kleffman needed to come in as a reliever to help Lockport rally from a late 7-3 deficit to win, 8-7, against Lincoln-Way Central in the semifinals of the inaugural WJOL Softball Invitational, the Porters senior turned in a classic performance in Saturday’s championship game against Joliet West at the Inwood Sports Complex.
Kleffman retired the first 19 batters that she faced before allowing a one-out walk in the seventh inning to Lanie Chizmark. She retired the next two batters to collect her first high school no-hitter while striking out five.
In the first inning, the Porters moved in front for good after two of their first three batters drew walks and their fourth-hitter, Alyssa Drogemuller, hit a two-run single to center to score Haley Panfil and courtesy runner Danielle Travis to account for the game’s only runs, as Lockport improved to 12-3 after capturing a 2-0 victory over the Tigers.
After Panfil made a nice catch near the centerfield fence in the fourth, West (7-4) threatened to get baserunners on in the sixth and seventh innnings after Kleffman fell behind 3-1. Kleffman battled back to get both outs but was unable to respond to a 3-0 count against Chizmark.
Kleffman was recognized as the Most Valuable Player in the tournament. Other Porters who made the all-tournement team were Lauren Johnson, Drogemuller and Panfil. Tigers starter Savannah Fierke also pitched well, allowing just three hits while striking out five in six innings. Fierke was joined on the all-tournament by Taylor Durak and Madison Fraser.
“After coming off a big win over Lincoln-Way Central, who had a big loss to earlier in the season, this was a group effort,” Kleffman said. “We were losing, 7-3, and came back to win, 8-7, so we were in it to win it. My team is very good, hitting-wise, so I know that I have them behind me even if I do make mistakes. Our team does a good job of hitting solid pitching, and that really helps and will take us far this season.”
After seeing her squad win its fifth-straight game, including a second win in two days over Lincoln-Way West, coach Marissa Chovanec is upbeat about how good the Porters might turn out to be this season.
“Our goal was that we wanted to score first in the title game,” Chovanec said. “We said that we won that inning, and now we want to keep the momentum. Erin was definitely in command of her pitches, and she always wants to be better, and as a coach, you can’t ask for more.”
Following the early walks in the opening inning, a passed ball moved the runners up to third and second bases with one out. That’s when Drogemuller slapped a single up the middle, which put the Porters up for good.
“At first I was just looking for a hit in the middle or on the right side,” Drogemuller said. “She was throwing me those rise balls, and I was just trying to protect. After a checking my swing on one pitch, I knew that I definitely had to move the runners.”
Tigers coach Heather Suca was obviously pleased to come back against JCA, but despite getting another fine effort from Fierke, she also realized that the Lockport pitcher was on top of her game.
“The JCA win was huge,” Suca said. “It shows how much the girls stuck with it against a good pitcher. And Lockport is a good team and played some amazing defense, so I’m happy with the way we played, and they were great games. I think it’s already a great tournament.”
West scored runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to rally for a 3-2 semifinal victory over Joliet Catholic Academy as Taylor Schwall led the way with three hits, while Fierke had nine strikeouts and JCA’s Britney Lewinski recorded 12 strikeouts in eight-inning efforts.
The Knights (8-2) captured a 6-0 victory over the Angels in the third-place game. They used a four-run third to take control as Gabriella Gedville had four hits, while Amanda Weyh had two hits and two RBIs, while allowing two hits and striking out eight in a complete-game win. Earning all-tournament honors for Central were Weyh and Carly Alvers, while JCA’s Jennifer Krizka was also selected for the team.
“Kleffman came in and did an excellent job for Lockport and shut us down,” Knights coach Jeff Tarala said of the semifinal game. “I told the girls that we hadn’t been part of a tournament other than in the playoffs, and I was pleased with how they responded. Obviously, we had a disappointing loss after being up, 7-3. But Amanda did an excellent job and shut JCA down. I thought that we hit the ball well all day.”