Molly Chambers is enjoying her first season on the Evanston softball team so much that she’s putting up the best numbers this side of New York Yankees’ rookie slugger Aaron Judge.
No one is hotter than the ETHS freshman. She collected 6 hits and drove in 5 runs on Saturday as the Wildkits earned a doubleheader split with Lane Tech at the ETHS field.
After dropping the first game 8-5, Evanston rallied for an 11-5 triumph in Game 2. Winning pitcher Chambers went 4-for-4 at the plate, including a 3-run home run, and the victory in the nightcap allowed the Wildkits to tie the single season school record for wins (18) they established a year ago.
Chambers wasn’t a part of that record season. But the Kits are on track to shatter that mark behind the right-hander, who has made a big impact on offense, too.
Since the Rolling Meadows Tournament two weeks ago, Chambers is hitting at a robust .741 clip and has raised her overall average to .471 on the year. Not bad for someone who head coach Katie Perkins replaced with a designated hitter on days that she pitched earlier in the year.
Chambers’ emergence on offense recently has been particularly significant. Her older sister Megan, the team’s cleanup hitter, is sidelined with a fractured nose and leadoff hitter Lucy Hart was a last-minute scratch on Saturday when she was hit in the collarbone with an errant warmup throw in pre-game drills.
Hart is expected back in the lineup next week, but those two absences caused Perkins to dig even deeper into her bench than usual for the twin-bill.
The tall right-hander made sure that the hits kept on coming against a Lane Tech team that entered Saturday with an impressive 16-2 won-lost mark. The split moved ETHS to 18-8 on the year.
“We did use the DH for Molly at the start of the year,” Perkins recalled. “She went to a different hitting coach this past summer and we had to tell her to forget about what she learned there. We had to re-train her, because her hitting form was not where it needed to be.
“She’s a disciplined batter who knows her (strike) zone and she’s got the mental approach to go up there and hit the ball hard. She’s a strong kid who has confidence when she gets in the batter’s box, and she just attacks the ball. It’s really that simple.”
Hannah Schaps and Chambers both singled and scored on Jaden Janzen’s double in the first inning of Game 2. But Chambers, who pitched almost 5 complete innings in relief of Grace Elwood in Game 1, yielded a game-tying homer to Lane’s Karli Spaid with one out in the third.
The hosts regained the lead by pushing across an unearned run in their half of the fourth. Meg Eisfelder’s leadoff single produced a run when she took second on a wild pitch and came across on Caroline Job’s sacrifice bunt that resulted in a throwing error by the Lane Tech catcher, Riley Mendoza.
Schaps opened the ETHS 5th with a walk, Kendra Klamm reached on the shortstop’s error, and then Chambers drilled a 3-1 pitch over the fence in right center for her second homer of the season. Later in that frame, Eisfelder doubled down the right field line and she eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Job.
Evanston poured it on with four more runs in the sixth, highlighted by Chambers’ 2-run single, a line shot to left that plated Elwood and Schaps. Evanston banged out 12 hits in the win, with Schaps, Eisfelder and Janzen collecting two apiece.
In Game 1, Lane Tech capitalized on three errors in the third inning by the Kits to score 7 runs, 6 of them unearned. Those miscues came one day after Evanston committed 8 errors in a loss to Trinity and Perkins and her staff made numerous defensive changes in both games to try to snap the Kits out of what has to be considered a defensive slump.
Starter Elwood deserved a better fate in the third, although the Indians did deliver three straight singles to fill the bases with no outs. A sacrifice fly, two errors and a double followed before Mendoza’s RBI single chased Elwood.
Chambers relieved and allowed an unearned run in the fifth. Evanston did chalk up 4 runs in the sixth — and only hit one ball out of the infield to accomplish that —- and used singles by Janzen and Eisfelder plus a double by Chambers to account for the last run of the 8-5 defeat.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.