The hitters have earned the headlines for a streaking Evanston softball team this spring.
But pitchers Anne Porter and Molly Chambers were the ones who pushed the Wildkits into the driver’s seat in the Central Suburban League South division race Tuesday in chilly Park Ridge.
The pair hurled a combined 3-hitter and the Kits scored a thrilling 2-1 victory over Maine South to break a first-place deadlock with the Hawks. ETHS scored its sixth consecutive win and now holds a one-game advantage in the conference with one game --- against Niles West Thursday --- and two more innings that need to be finished off versus Maine South next week in a suspended game.
South has more games to make up and does lead the suspended game 2-1 in the 5th inning against ETHS, so the Hawks could still force a tie for the title.
Head coach Amy Gonzales turned to Porter as Plan B in the circle Tuesday when Chambers was delayed at school taking AP tests. Chambers did arrive in time as the start of the game was delayed half an hour so Chambers and teammates Gillian Rosenberg and Zoe Coleman had time to travel from Evanston.
But Gonzales stuck with Porter, and the junior right-hander responded with 3 scoreless innings, retiring 9 of the 10 batters she faced and permitting just one lone single. Chambers relieved her in the fourth and struck out six, escaping a 7th inning jam as Evanston improved to 10-6 on the season.
“I usually like to have both girls warmed up in case one of them doesn’t have it that day,” Gonzales explained. “I thought they both did a very good job of shutting down Maine South’s offense today.
“I have a lot of confidence in both of them. Anne knew that it was possible she might start and I wanted her to be prepared. She’s a different type of pitcher than Molly --- she doesn’t have Molly’s speed --- but her pitches have a lot of movement. She’s been pitching more lately and teams will hit her, but when you get ground balls and popups like she does, that’s just what you want.”
Evanston pushed across a pair of runs in the 6th inning versus Maine South’s Violet Kamienski.
With one out, Lucy Hart lashed an opposite field double off the glove of South outfielder Kate Stewart. She stopped at third on a single by Chambers, then scored on a passed ball when teammate Zoe Canafax squared up for a possible squeeze bunt and Hawks’ catcher Emily Reczek missed the pitch.
Canafax followed with a single, and pinch-runner Coleman scored what turned out to be the winning run when Liz Ayeni grounded to short and the Hawks couldn’t make the play at the plate.
Plenty of drama remained for Chambers and Co. after that, however. In the South 7th, a leadoff single by Sophia Albano didn’t loom as too large a threat after the next hitter, Libby Strotman, bounced into a forceout.
But Grace Gallery ripped a vicious line drive off of pitcher Chambers’ glove and was ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first to keep the inning alive. A passed ball and a wild pitch while Chambers was issuing a free pass to Stewart put the lead in danger, but Chambers regrouped and retired the last two hitters --- on a bunt and a grounder to the mound --- to seal the win.
Evanston totaled 8 hits on the day, including two apiece for Hart, Chambers and Jessica Parcell.