NEW LENOX – Lincoln-Way Central found itself in a rather unfamiliar position Saturday.
Three and a half innings into their home tilt against Plainfield Central, the Knights had managed only one hit and were yet to score. It was one of the first times they had trailed all season. The Wildcats were sitting pretty and poised to hand LWC its third loss of the season. Until suddenly, they weren’t.
A two-out, two-run home run from Sydney Grein in the bottom of the fifth finally served to shake the cobwebs free for the Knights and paved the way to a comfortable 7-1 win.
“It took our bats a little while, but that’s actually pretty normal in the cold. We started to hit it eventually,” said Knights head coach Jeff Tarala. “Sydney did a good job with that home run to really break things open for us. It was a pretty typical cold-weather game, but we did well for the most part. We fielded the ball well all afternoon and then also hit it well later in the game.”
Though the Knights entered play with an 11-2 record, Plainfield Central starting pitcher Haley Geistler made them look uncharacteristically human during her first trip through the batting order. She sent them packing 1-2-3 in each of the first two frames, then pitched around a double and a hit batsman to escape the third with a narrow 1-0 lead still intact.
The ’Cats had scratched out a run in the top of the third against LWC starter Lyndsay Grein by taking advantage of an infield single from Sarah Parker, who then advanced to third base on back-to-back passed balls and scored on an RBI single from Anna Campbell in the next at bat.
Given the Knights’ track record, Plainfield Central’s lead was a far from comfortable and, as a result, Geistler was kept on a pretty short leash. As LWC started to show signs of life at the dish in the bottom of the fourth with a walk and an infield single, Geistler was given the hook in favor of reliever Lindsey Bouska with one out in the frame. She exited with a 1-0 lead and finished the day having surrendered two hits, a walk and an HBP, while on the hook for two baserunners.
It looked like Bouska might pitch her way out of the inherited jam until the first of Alyssa Culbertson’s five errors at third base brought in the tying run for the Knights and marked the beginning of the end for the Wildcats. A passed ball brought in the go-ahead run in the following at bat. Then with two outs in the inning and a runner on third, Sydney Grein, Lyndsey’s older sister, broke things wide open with a two-run blast to right-center field to put the Knights ahead, 4-1.
The lead would prove to be permanent. Plainfield South never showed a single sign of recovery from that point forward.
Lyndsey received three more insurance runs in the Knights’ half of the sixth and went the distance to pick up a complete-game victory at home.
“We were down against Lincoln-Way West [on Friday] and we haven’t found ourselves in that situation much this year, so I was curious to see how we would respond to being down. They did a good job against West and did the same again today,” Tarala said. “We’ve been playing well for the most part. We’ve hit the ball well, fielded well and we have four very good pitchers we can throw out there; and that’s a luxury that a lot of teams just don’t have. They’ve shown some mental toughness over the last couple of days and we’re absolutely satisfied with what we’ve seen from them to this point in the season, at least.”