The casual softball fan might consider the cold and windy spring weather endured by area teams this year as “pitcher’s weather”. After all, it’s difficult to swing a bat and make solid contact when you can’t feel your fingers.
Add a persistent rain to the mix and Mother Nature isn’t really on anyone’s side. But with an assist from pitching coach Shannon Roney Saturday morning, Evanston pitcher Zoe Kurtzer wasn’t about to lose her grip on a 7-run lead.
Despite what turned out to be a steady drizzle, Kurtzer bounced back from one rough inning and finished off Evanston’s 6th win in a row, a 13-3 drubbing of visiting Wheeling. The Wildkits improved to 13-5 on the season and now stand only 4 wins short of matching the school record set back in 1990.
Kurtzer, not normally known as a strikeout pitcher, fanned 6 of the 9 hitters she faced the first time through the Wheeling batting order. But as the rain started to fall harder, the junior right-hander walked 3 batters in the fourth and helped the visitors close the gap to 7-3.
That’s when Roney really got busy. The ETHS assistant coach found a towel in the dugout and did her best to keep supplying dry softballs for both hurlers the rest of the contest.
“I was a pitcher myself, so I know what they were going through,” Roney said. “I think in general pitchers in the Midwest are tougher mentally because of the weather they have to pitch in.
“I just told Zoe to find a dry spot on her (uniform, body) and do anything you can to help keep your fingers dry. I also said I’ll get you a dry ball every other pitch if that’s what it takes.”
“It wasn’t easy to grip the ball, but I don’t think it affected me too much,” Kurtzer said. “I just tried to keep my head in the game and do my best because I knew my teammates were all behind me. Everyone on the field did a great job, and I know they will as long as I do my part, too.”
Kurtzer coped with the conditions much better than her counterpart in the circle, Wheeling’s Abby Greenspan. She allowed 9 hits, including 2 apiece by Megan Chambers, Gina Hopf, Lucy Hart and Lania Mills, and also uncorked 6 wild pitches to aid Evanston’s cause.
Evanston erupted for 7 runs in the bottom of the 3rd. Chambers delivered the big blow in the uprising, a 2-run double, and later scored on a wild pitch. The Wildkits also benefited from two Wheeling errors and four walks in that frame.
ETHS tacked on 4 more runs in the 4th and put the 10-run slaughter rule into effect in the 7th as Greenspan walked 3, hit a batter and allowed a game-ending opposite field single by Hart.
“Zoe barely walks anyone, so I’m not sure if that was the reason she had all those walks in that inning,” said Evanston head coach Katie Perkins. “But the rain definitely had an effect on her.
“The first 3 innings I thought were really solid for Zoe. She was really spot on, and then the rain started to become a factor.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.