Down to their last strike, Kits rally for softball win
Evanston’s softball team chalked up a comeback for the ages Monday afternoon against Mundelein Carmel.
Just in time for the Wildkits to build some momentum for the postseason in what has been an up-and-down campaign when it comes to wins and losses.
Down to their final strike not once --- not twice --- but THREE times in a row, the Wildkits rallied for a 3-2 victory on Cristal Rodriguez’s walk-off single down the right field line.
Now 8-9 overall, Evanston shrugged off 4 errors in a sloppy defensive display and showed they can be a team no one wants to match up against when Class 4A regional tournament play opens in 10 days.
The Wildkits are seeded 9th in the sectional tournament field, and the new Illinois High School Association postseason setup (due to the coronavirus pandemic) will see the higher seeds in softball and baseball hosting tournament games instead of teams being grouped at sectional sites. Evanston will play at No. 8 seed Lincoln Park on June 2, and would advance to play at No. 1 seed Whitney Young for the regional crown if they win their tourney opener.
Head coach Amy Gonzales couldn’t remember a game where she saw a team rally against the kind of odds the Kits faced Monday.
Chloe Haack’s one-out double over the right fielder’s head brought the tying run to scoring position, and Carmel pitcher Caroline Gatchell couldn’t close out the win after retiring Kristen Stocks on an infield grounder, even though she got ahead in the count on the next 3 Wildkit batters.
Winning pitcher Serafina Goodwill grounded a single to center on a 1-2 pitch, Katy Patton pulled a single through the right side on a 2-2 offering, and Rodriguez came through with her biggest hit of the season, a line drive single down the right field line that chased Goodwill home on a 1-2 pitch.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before, and this is really a good time for it,” said Gonzales. “It was very nice to see because a lot of people got to contribute today. It was nice to see them all make contact like that. We try to tell them all the time not to hit the ball in the air, to hit hard ground balls, and that’s what they did today.
“Serafina made good hard contact, and so did Katy (Patton) after switching bats (to a heavier model) in the middle of the game, and then Cristal came through for us. It was great to have Cristal up there at that point, even though she hasn’t played in a lot of games this year. She doesn’t let anything get into her head --- she just does it.
“This was a good time for us to have a good game like this. We made some mistakes that we can’t keep making on defense --- we do need to clean some things up --- but I really thought Serafina looked good today. I thought this was one of her best games. She was able to mix up her pitches a little more, and she was able to throw her changeup in the strike zone more, too. From the beginning of the season to now, she’s continually improving out there.”
The freshman right-hander doesn’t have statistics that she’ll want printed on the back of her bubble gum card some day after hurling almost every inning for the Wildkits this spring. But Monday, Goodwill limited the visiting Corsairs to 3 hits --- one of which was a line drive lost in the sun by the ETHS left fielder --- and both Carmel runs were unearned.
Rodriguez was credited with an RBI in the first inning when the hosts filled the bases on a walk to Haack, a hit batter and Patton’s spinning infield single. Rodriguez hit a popup over the second baseman’s head and the Carmel defender (Kyla Kapplean) collided with right fielder Kaylie McKenna as the ball fell safely.
The Corsairs were able to get a forceout at second base on that play, and recorded the third out without further damage. Kapplean was shaken up and had to leave the game immediately, and McKenna was lifted one inning later as a precaution.
Carmel got even in the top of the 4th. Leadoff hitter Sophie Dir, who replaced Kapplean, was credited with a double when left fielder Rodriguez lost her line drive in the sun at the last instant. A subsequent throwing error knotted the score at 1-1, but Goodwill stranded 2 baserunners to preserve the tie.
In the Carmel 5th, Goodwill let the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the lineup reach on a single and a hit batter (with an 0-2 count), and the go-ahead scored on another Wildkit error.
Evanston finished with 6 hits and had a runner on base in every inning against Gatchell until the walk-off rally.