Oak Park stymies Wildkit offense in softball finale

Oak Park-River Forest pitcher Taylor Divello cooled off Evanston’s hot bats --- and now there is no tomorrow for the Wildkit softball squad.

A 4-0 loss to the No. 1 sectional seed Huskies ended Evanston’s season Friday in the championship game of the Class 4A Evanston Regional tournament. The hosts only mustered 4 hits --- just 1 in the final 5 innings --- and concluded their season at 16-10.

Divello, a senior right-hander, struck out 7 and retired 13 of the last 15 batters she faced. Evanston, which entered postseason play with a team batting average of .377, couldn’t make much hard contact against the clever righty.

“We just didn’t get it done against a good pitcher,” admitted ETHS head coach Amy Gonzales. “Sometimes you just can’t wait, wait, wait up at the plate, you have to be aggressive. We didn’t make that adjustment fast enough today.

“She wasn’t dominating us, but she was consistent and hit her spots a majority of the time. She just kept hitting her spots.”

Evanston’s only real scoring threats came early against Divello. With one out in the first inning, Anne Porter and Lucy Hart rapped back-to-back singles, but that rally died when Divello whiffed Molly Chambers on a 3-2 fastball and Zoe Canafax popped to the shortstop.

Freshman Katie Patton’s one-out double in the second, the first of two hits for the ETHS rookie, failed to produce a tally when Divello retired both Jessica Parcell (bunt) and Zoe Landolt (strikeout).

Evanston’s only other baserunners after that were Hart on an outfield error in the third; Porter on a leadoff walk in the sixth; and Patton on a one-out single in the seventh.

Oak Park (20-9) solved losing pitcher Molly Chambers for a total of 9 hits, although 2 of the runs against the junior righty were unearned. A first-inning error and a solo home run by Karly Cantrell shoved the hosts into a 2-0 hole in the second, and the Huskies tacked on another run in the fifth on Nellie Hale’s triple and a sacrifice fly.

A passed ball accounted for the only other run for the winners, who advanced to the Niles West Sectional tournament.

Evanston closed out the season on a strong note after a rough start in Gonzales’ first year at the helm. The Kits will graduate only three senior starters --- first baseman Hart, and outfielders Landolt and Liz Ayeni --- and will hope to build on what should have been a rebuilding season on paper.

Hart finished her senior season with a single season school record batting average of .610 and collected 53 hits.

That’s a total that would have been impressive for a full season of slow-pitch competition.

“Lucy is such a great kid, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how tough it’s going to be to replace her,” said Gonzales regarding the Kalamazoo College-bound first baseman. “She came in here as a freshman starter and never wavered from that. She played with a lot of confidence and she’s really been a great leader for us. She does whatever she can to help you win, and I wish I had her for another year.

“I actually thought this was one of the better games we played this year against a really good team. We had a couple of plays that we just didn’t make.”

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