Evanston’s softball team set up a winner-take-all showdown with Maine South Thursday in Central Suburban League South division play after pounding Niles North 14-2 in a 5-inning slaughter rule contest on a sunny day at ETHS.
The Wildkits can clinch their second league title in three seasons with a win over the Hawks, as both teams will enter Thursday’s showdown at ETHS with identical 8-1 league marks.
The opportunity to win the championship isn’t one that comes every year for players in a program that has been rejuvenated recently under the leadership of head coach Katie Perkins.
And no one knows better than Perkins the rare chance that’s in front of all of her players, who celebrated Senior Day Tuesday and honored seniors Grace Elwood, Yese Montoya, Meg Eisfelder, Caroline Job and Ginger Haller.
“I couldn’t ask for a better performance on Senior Day,” said the Evanston coach after her squad improved to 16-4-1 overall. “I have seen a change in our expectations here, and it all comes down to what do the kids want to get out of the season? This is a group of seniors that respects each other and they’re all proud to wear the Blue and Orange (school colors) and represent the Evanston community.
“I know they’re excited about Thursday’s game because now we have the opportunity to stand all alone (at the top of the conference) after finishing in a 3-way tie two years ago. That would be absolutely great, and well-deserved by this group of kids.”
Elwood, who broke into the varsity pitching rotation as a freshman, pitched her second complete game of the season and allowed just 3 hits against the Vikings (7-18, 0-9). She struck out 6 and, after issuing a pair of walks to start the game and allowing a 2-run double by Kylie Reichert, slammed the door shut against a North squad that had given her trouble the first time the two teams met.
The senior right-hander retired 14 of the next 16 batters she faced following Reichert’s first inning double, and also contributed a run-scoring single as part of a 9-run offensive outburst by the winners in the bottom of that frame.
“Grace might have been a little nervous at the start, because of the crowd here for Senior Day, but that didn’t last long,” Perkins pointed out. “The movement on her pitches was fantastic and she pitched a great game.”
Evanston ripped 10 hits in four at-bats, including doubles by Chloe Haack (2-for-3, 4 runs scored), Zoe Canafax (1-for-4, 3 runs scored), Eisfelder (2-for-3, 3 runs), Molly Chambers (2-for-3, 4 RBI) and Job (1-for-3, 2 RBI). The Kits scored 9 runs in the first and then tacked on 3 in the third and 2 more in the 4th.
Chambers’ bases-loaded double did most of the damage in the first inning, and Job and Canafax also whacked two-baggers off the right-center field fence as the hosts sent 13 batters to the plate before losing pitcher Marika Kalodimos finally retired the side.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.