Lady Knights close out Mt. Assisi, claim regional title
She may have appeared composed, but Chicago Christian sophomore pitcher Davina Gutierrez needed a moment to calm herself Saturday after enduring a six-run fourth inning that cut the Lady Knights’ lead over Mt. Assisi to 7-6.
“The first thing I thought about was my travel-ball coach, Joe Findlay,” Gutierrez said. “I thought about what words he would be saying to me and what would be going through my mind at that time.
“And I just thought about what our team has been through together, and I knew that they had my back one way or another, so I knew that we could get through it. … The emotions running through me kind of got the best of me at one point, but I definitely pushed through it.”
Gutierrez settled down after surrendering a two-RBI single and Terri Dearth’s grand slam and limited the Screeching Eagles to just one more run. The Lady Knights added to their own total as well, which helped them collect an 11-7 victory and the championship of their own Class 2A softball regional at the Trinity Christian College Athletic Complex.
The defeat not only ended Mt. Assisi’s campaign, but its very existence. The school closed its doors for good on Friday.
Chicago Christian (14-15), which claimed its fourth regional crown in as many seasons, met Beecher in a Reed-Custer Sectional semifinal this past Wednesday. The Eagles, meanwhile, concluded their final season at 9-19.
“The way we’re playing right now, I’d put us up against anybody,” Lady Knights coach Kevin Pittman said. “We’ve said as a team and as a coaching staff that we’re going to ride this thing as long as we can and as hard as we can.
“If we keep playing the way that we want to play and we dictate a lot of the things, I think we hold our own destiny in our hands. I like the way we’re playing right now.”
Pittman praised Gutierrez for hanging tough when it seemed as if Mt. Assisi had completely shifted momentum its way.
“When we needed her to get the job done, she was able to dig down a little bit and get it done,” Pittman said. “She’s just a battler. She’s a competitor.
“Davina did what we expect Davina to do. We put a lot of pressure on her [and] we put a lot on her shoulders, but she’s more than capable.”
Christian responded to the Eagles’ scoring explosion with four runs of its own in the fifth. The two-out rally began with Gutierrez reaching base and then four more Lady Knights followed suit, among them Sam Kubik, who slammed a two-RBI triple to right-center field.
“We came through with some really good hits,” Gutierrez said. “Sam Kubik, with that really, really good triple, definitely set the tone for all of us. Our bats were alive.”
“Timely hitting late in the game summed it up for us,” Pittman said. “I told our girls afterwards if that had happened to us three weeks ago, giving up a 7-0 run lead, I think we would have waited for something bad to happen in the next inning. But we responded positively, and the four runs really put the momentum back on our side.“
Christian totaled 11 runs for the third straight game, but the seven runs Gutierrez allowed were the most given up by the Lady Knights since they lost 14-2 to Wheaton-St. Francis in a Suburban Christian Conference game on May 5.
“I say hats off to Chicago Christian because even after we got that rally, they stayed in it and they stayed strong,” Mt. Assisi coach Jill Harvey said. “The one thing about Chicago Christian is that they don’t stop. They keep going.”
The Lady Knights’ regional-clinching victory continued a late-season surge that has now seen them win six of seven games. The streak is a complete reversal of fortunes for Christian, which dropped five of six decisions immediately before that.
“Talking to my team after a lot of those losses, we were feeling a little snake-bit,” Pittman said. “Anything that could possibly go wrong, we were finding ways to make that happen. When you start playing like that for a while, you start thinking like that. That seemed like what we were going through.
“We were thinking the worst things and then the worst things would happen. We couldn’t make a routine play and it would lead to a bad inning. It seemed like Murphy’s Law was staring us right in the face, [but] the girls have been playing with confidence in the past couple of weeks.
“And the most telling thing Saturday was that we only had four strikeouts at the plate — only one looking — and just one the previous game. We’ve made great strides by putting the ball in play and forcing the other team to make some plays — when you do that, then you can put even more pressure on your opponent, which has been definitely evident.”
Helping Christian construct its 7-0 lead over the Eagles were Gutierrez, Abbie Bulthuis and Trisha Belgrave, all of whom hit safely during a six-run third. Bulthuis also tallied the Lady Knights’ initial marker on the front end of a double steal in the second inning.
To reach the regional championship contest, Christian whitewashed Queen of Peace 11-0 last Wednesday. Before that, the Lady Knights notched couple impressive regular-season triumphs over Timothy Christian (10-1) and Lemont (11-4).
“The schedule worked out nice for us that we were able to play an opponent where we could get our feet back under us a little bit,” Pittman said, referring to the Lady Trojans, who had also fallen to Chicago Christian earlier in the season. “It was nice for the girls to experience a win again.”
A 5-0 loss to Rosary temporarily shoved the good feelings aside, but the Lady Knights rebounded to defeat Immaculate Conception 3-2 with a late rally. Bre Vollan’s two-run single and Belgrave’s RBI hit keyed a productive sixth inning.
“Scoring runs late has not been the hallmark of this team,” Pittmann said. “That worked out well and it gave us confidence.”
Christian kept the momentum going the following day by racking up a 6-4 win over Rosary behind Kubik (2-for-4, one RBI, two runs) and Gutierrez (nine strikeouts). Again the Lady Knights overcame a deficit as Kubik and Emily Vilendrer (two-run single) triggered a fourth-inning uprising.
Gutierrez (double), Belgrave (RBI single) and Madison Riemersma (RBI bunt) then gave Christian the means by which to triumph.
“Madison is a reserve who came through nicely on offense and played a good left field,” Pittman said. “We could feel the momentum switching and a renewed sense of confidence. It did our girls a whole bunch of good.”
The momentum was fully felt in the Lady Knights’ seven-run win over Lemont. Vollan and Bulthuis had two-run doubles and Gutierrez pitched a complete game in addition to contributing a pair of hits and scoring twice.
“I think Lemont was kind of shocked,” Coach Pittman said. “Our girls were kind of looking at each other and I told them that this is the way they should have been playing all year. They can do these things.
“We’ve had weeks where we haven’t scored six runs and we score them on a really good Lemont team. We took momentum and ran with it. That was the best win we had all season against a quality opponent and the best week of softball we played all season.”
The Lady RedHawks stayed on a high road as they won four of five games in the final week of the regular season. Defeated were Lincoln-Way West, Marian Catholic, Conant and Carmel.
Julie Trellicoso (3-for-4, two runs) and Vanessa Villasenor (two-run homer, three RBI) were Marist’s ringleaders in its 5-1 victory over the Lady Warriors. Zariya Gonzalez (18-4) went the distance while throwing a four-hitter.
Gonzalez was also sharp versus Marian, which struck out eight times against her in an 8-2 East Suburban Catholic Conference loss to the Lady RedHawks. For good measure, she aided Marist’s offense with two RBI. Madison Naujokas (3-for-4 with a homer, two RBI and two runs) was also a factor at the plate.
Naujokas slugged a two-run homer and finished with two hits to lead the Lady RedHawks past Conant by a 7-2 score. Villasenor added a two-RBI double and Gonzalez tossed a five-hitter while pitching another complete game.
Marist (25-8-1, 13-5) beat Carmel 13-6 in the opener of an ESCC doubleheader on Saturday before suffering an 8-6 loss in Game 2. Gonzalez (3-for-4, two runs; five-hitter) and Naujokas (3-for-5 with a two-run double, solo homer and four RBI) were once again the Lady RedHawks’ pacesetters in Game 1, while Villasenor (two-run single, three RBI) was the second-game notable.
South Suburban Conference Red conquests of Oak Lawn (3-2), Reavis (12-0) and Argo (16-0) highlighted the Lady Bulldogs’ week, which was marred only by an 8-2 loss to Andrew on Friday.
Sara Kiziak (14-4) tossed a four-hitter and also stroked an RBI single to help Richards get past the Lady Spartans last Monday. Jordan Battels (two hits) added a solo homer.
Kiziak was a double-edged threat for the Lady Bulldogs once more on Tuesday. In the circle, she stopped the Lady Rams on four hits while fanning seven, a performance that was augmented by a grand slam. Emily Wetzel went 4-for-4 with two RBI as Richards completed the rout in five innings.
It was Sarah Tobin’s turn in the spotlight on Wednesday as she whiffed nine, tossed a five-hitter and swatted a grand slam to spark the Lady Bulldogs (20-7, 17-2) against Argo. Wetzel chipped in a homer and three RBI for Richards.
The Lady Eagles salvaged last week by defeating Barrington 4-3 on Saturday. The win followed one-run defeats versus Joliet West (4-3) and Lockport (3-2) in SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue play.
Leading Sandburg (18-15) past Barrington in the Stone City Jamboree were Madeline Hanley and Emily Griskell. Hanley’s 13th-inning homer created the needed differential, while Griskell pitched nine innings of shutout relief and struck out six while allowing five hits.
Hanley’s RBI double and Brianna Soltis’ run-scoring hit were the main ingredients in the Lady Eagles’ loss to Joliet, and Soltis came through with another RBI hit versus the Lady Porters.
The Mighty Macs improved to 21-4 last week by topping Morton (8-0) and Shepard (5-1) on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.
Emily Rux (two hits) and Morgan Fleming (one) each had two RBI for host Mother McAuley on Wednesday, while Jessica Alberts fanned eight and fired a two-hitter. Amy Balich (two hits, including a two-run double) and Dara Sanders (four-hitter, nine strikeouts) were the Macs’ headliners opposite the Lady Astros.
Melissa Kelly’s homer accounted for Shepard’s lone run.
Besides their loss to McAuley, the Lady Astros (18-9, 12-7) rolled over Eisenhower 10-4 in an SSC Red encounter. Jalyn Stepney (two-run single) and Breanna Graffeo (two hits, two RBI, two runs) spearheaded Shepard’s offense in the win.
Liz Childers’ two-run homer keyed the Lady Spartans’ 6-4 SSC Red triumph over Argo last Friday. Ashley Labuda chipped in with a two-RBI single.
Stagg got the better of Oak Lawn (14-17, 9-10) on Saturday, however, as Noor Elmosa and Emily Abbene led the way to a 2-0 win. The Lady Chargers (2-17, 1-12) dropped a 10-0 SWSC Blue verdict to Lockport in their other outing of last week.
The Lady Mustangs improved to 19-12 overall and 10-9 in the SSC Red with a 5-4 win over Argo last Thursday. Jenna Haase (3-for-4, two RBI) singled in Bethany Salazar (two runs) in the bottom of the seventh to elevate Evergreen Park.