As she normally does after a stint on the mound, Molly Chambers had an ice bag wrapped around her right shoulder at the end of Thursday’s New Trier-Evanston softball game.
When it was suggested that the Evanston pitcher share some of that ice with all of those Trevians she hit with pitches on the other side of the diamond, Chambers just smiled.
Chambers made up for one of the most bizarre pitching lines she’ll ever have in her varsity career — 8 strikeouts, 7 hit batters, 1 walk and 4 hits allowed — by slugging a pair of home runs and driving in six runs as the Wildkits overpowered the visiting Trevians by an 11-3 margin.
Evanston defeated New Trier for the second time in three years, a more notable accomplishment than any current fan might appreciate. It’s only the fourth time in school history that ETHS has topped their neighbors to the north, whose program is on the decline after dominating the Central Suburban League South division for two decades or more.
Thursday, New Trier started 5 sophomores and a freshman, and the fact that Evanston’s junior varsity team slaughtered the visitors 30-0 on an adjoining field shows that the once one-sided rivalry might be taking a turn in the Wildkits’ direction.
The fact that Chambers, a sophomore, was matched against players her own age and will be for the next two seasons gave added significance to the fact that she plunked so many opposing hitters Thursday. Odds are that the Trevians won’t forget what happened in the season’s first matchup as Evanston improved to 6-3-1 on the season and 2-1 in league play, although Chambers clearly didn’t hit anyone on purpose.
“There is one girl on their team I know, the girl (Ava Reichert, a freshman) who hit the home run, because we play on the same (summer) team,” Chambers revealed. “But I’m not worried about any bad blood. You’ve got to be competitive when you’re out there, and I can’t NOT throw inside. I just had to find a balance because of the way they were all crowding the plate.
“I’m not super, super bothered by all those hit batters. I had to keep a cool head when it happened. You just have to think about the next batter. When things aren’t going your way, you have to wipe it off and go one pitch at a time. That’s something I’ve been working on.
“Those two home runs really felt good coming against a rival like that. I think everything’s coming together for us now as a team. That’s how we should be playing regularly. It felt pretty good to beat them, because before today my sister (former ETHS star Megan Chambers) was always holding it over my head because her team beat them two years ago.”
Chambers smashed a 3-run home run in the first inning — a blow that traveled at least 240 feet — and added an RBI single in the second and a two-run bomb in the fourth, all against losing pitcher Elisa Nettesheim, the only senior on the New Trier roster.
Chambers had another opportunity to do some damage on offense but the Trevians issued an intentional walk with runners on second and third and no outs in the sixth. Chambers has now hit four home runs on the season, three of them coming in the past week.
“I thought Molly was mentally very strong today,” praised Evanston head coach Katie Perkins. “She hit quite a few batters today — what was it, 6 or 7? — and I think last year she hit three batters total. To watch her push through like that and not get rattled was really something. I think Molly did a great job.
“We had a great start today in the first inning. We played some small ball, had some power too, and I think that gave the kids a lot of confidence moving on from there. When they play relaxed, they play way better. If we can just eliminate some of those errors, we should be unstoppable.”
New Trier had Chambers on the ropes early after Reichert lined the third pitch of the game over the right center field fence. An infield hit and two hit batters filled the bases with one out, but Chambers zipped called third strikes past both Claire Van Damme and Ivy Burck to wriggle off the hook.
The Trevians scored an unearned run in the second and another in the seventh.
Evanston banged out 11 hits against Nettesheim and reliever Liz Fisher, as Lucy Hart went 3-for-4 with an RBI and also reached base on an error for the winners.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.