Caroline Job earned a promotion to the No. 2 slot in Evanston’s softball batting order this year because of her speed, her ability to bunt and to handle the bat. Not because of her power.
But Job flipped the power switch Thursday and led the Wildkits to a 14-3 victory over Highland Park in a Central Suburban League crossover game, boosting ETHS to 4-1 on the season.
Job’s first varsity home run in the first inning opened the power floodgates for the winners, who bashed five doubles and two triples as part of a 15-hit assault on Highland Park pitcher Natalie Abreu. Job herself went 3-for-4 with a homer, double, single and three runs-batted-in and every starter had at least one hit for the winners except for winning pitcher Zoe Kurtzer.
Ironically, Job’s homer came after the junior shortstop misfired on a pair of bunt attempts in the first inning. That just led to bigger and better things for Job, who lofted a high fly ball that fell just over the center field fence at ETHS.
“That’s a rare scenario, to see someone miss twice on bunts and then hit one out,” said ETHS head coach Katie Perkins. “Of course, I was not too pleased with those bunt attempts. But once she sent it over the fence I just gave her a big smile and a high five.”
“I surprised myself today,” admitted Job, who batted in the lower one-third of the ETHS order last year after winning the starting job at shortstop. “I was not prepared to hit it over the fence like that after missing the bunts. I’ve hit home runs before, but I’ve never hit one over the fence. It was pretty cool — and I hope to do it again some day.
Job, who also plays field hockey and ice hockey, said it took her almost the entire season to adjust to varsity level pitching last spring. “The pressure when you get to the varsity is a lot more intense,” she said.
“Once I moved up in the order this year my mindset was that I just had to do better than I did last year. I need to get on base and hit more consistently, and get those bunts down, too.”
Hitting was the strength of the 2016 squad that tied for the conference championship and set a single season school record for victories, so it’s probably no surprise that the Wildkits still have a balanced attack after losing just two starters from that team to graduation.
But the early indications to Perkins are that this team might surpass the 2016 squad on offense.
“I do think we’re a better hitting team than we were last year,” Perkins said. “We’re still working on pitch selection, but we definitely have a lot more power. I think that’s because they all did a lot of work in the off-season, consistently getting in the weight room and holding each other accountable for getting stronger.
“We’re a team that’s 15 deep this year and having Caroline in that No. 2 spot is just one of the options we have. We’re very quick at the top up there with her at No. 2, and it’s a plus for us to have someone up there who is a multiple threat, who can lay a bunt down or hit it over the fence. She’s a very smart player, very athletic and she has definitely grown a lot as a player.”
Job’s home run came with teammate Meg Eisfelder (4 runs scored, 2 doubles and a single) on base and was part of a three-run outburst. Designated player Katie Parcell tripled into the right field corner and scored on a two-out error to account for the other run.
Evanston tacked on two more runs in the second, three in the fourth and two in the fifth before Eisfelder’s long two-run double put the slaughter rule into effect at the end of a four-run sixth.
Kurtzer worked the first three innings in the circle to earn the victory, allowing one earned run. Freshman Molly Chambers struck out 5 in her 3-inning stint but did surrender a two-run homer to Highland Park’s Tessa Bojan.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.