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Postseason setback : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Postseason setback
Plainfield North stakes four runs in first inning, defeats Oswego East softball 7-4

by Laura M. Medina

5/29/2014

Good teams play until the final whistle, until the last buzzer, and until the third out, but even a "never give up" attitude was not enough to extend the Oswego East softball season.

A late-inning rally by visiting Plainfield North doomed the 15th-seeded Wolves in a 7-4 loss on Monday in the opening game of the Class 4A Downers Grove South Regional played on the Wolves' home field.

With the victory, the 18th-seeded Tigers advanced to face the host Mustangs on Tuesday afternoon, but Plainfield North's season came to an end with a 10-0 loss in five innings.

The regional championship is scheduled for Saturday between Waubonsie Valley and the winner of Wednesday's Plainfield East/West Aurora game. Results of that second semifinal game were not available at press time. The regional champion heads to the Oswego East Sectional semifinal on next Wednesday, June 4.

Oswego East (11-20, 2-12 Southwest Prairie Conference), which entered after winning back-to-back contests following its four-game losing streak from May 14-22, was down on its luck after the top half of the first, as Plainfield North orchestrated a two-out, four-run surge.

After inducing a pair of pop-ups to start the game, junior right-handed starter Kaelan O'Reilly was hit hard by the opposition, which started things off with a double to right by second baseman Carolyn Hett. Hett scored on shortstop Taylor Willhalm's single in the following at-bat.

Third baseman Morgan Krieger singled, and first baseman Jessica Clanton brought Willhalm home after reaching on a fielding error. Starting right-hander Sydney Schmittel helped her own cause with an RBI-single up the middle, and Clanton scored on a passed ball for the early 4-0 lead.

"We struggled with one inning (on Monday), and that really set us back," Oswego East head coach Laura Nussle said. "The big inning has kind of been a problem for us this season."

But a big inning also helped Oswego East get back into the game. Following senior left fielder Tiffani Palmatier's first-inning RBI-double to the left-field wall to get her team on the scoreboard, the Wolves added three more runs in the third.

Schmittel walked freshman Shannon Gaul to load the bases before senior third baseman Julia Johnson scored two on a double. Gaul came around to score soon afterward on junior right fielder Emily Thorson's double into shallow left.

Plainfield North made a pitching change in the next at-bat with right-hander Abigail Kruzel who secured the final two outs of the inning, leaving things tied 4-4.

While offense had been the tale of the tape for much of the game, the Wolves made an excellent defensive play - or three - to quell what could have been another Tigers rally in the fourth.

Jacadi Rivera led off the frame with a long double to left and advanced to third on center fielder Shannon Vaughan's single. Left fielder Kellie Fenza was in position to bring both players home on a hit to right, but Thorson made an excellent grab for the first out.

Thorson was also alert enough to notice Rivera trying to tag up at home, but her throw to senior catcher Gretchen Gaertner made it just in time for the out. Gaertner then saw Vaughan trying to tag at second, and her toss back in to the infield completed the back end of the triple play.

"Our defense was one of the highlights of this game," Nussle said.

O'Reilly was still on the mound in the fifth, when Hett singled to right and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Krieger singled, and Hett eventually scored on a wild pitch, and that was the end of O'Reilly's 10-hit, one-walk, 4 1-3 innings effort.

Senior right-hander Alex Wagner came on in relief, and two more runs scored on the Wolves to make it a 7-4 contest after five innings.

Oswego East, which outscored Plainfield North 19-6 while splitting a pair of SPC matchups during the regular season, seemingly could not get any more offense going the rest of the way.

The team's best chance to score again came in the bottom of the fifth, but it was quickly squashed by a base-running error. The Wolves then went down quietly in the sixth and seventh.

"It was a tough game, but they never gave up," Nussle said. "They worked hard until the end, and they showed true grit and desire."

Oswego East's season ended earlier than expected, and for six seniors, it was the last time that any of them would take the field as Wolves.

Nussle, in her second year at the helm, was not at a loss for words in describing the leadership of each of these players.

"Julia was a four-year varsity starter that showed poise and skill at her position. (Center fielder) Jordan Klingbeil has been a three year varsity starter and has used her leadership to teach others. Tiffani has filled in as needed and has become a solid hitter the last two years," Nussle said.

"Alex and Gretchen have been a pitcher-catcher combination since they were 14 years old, and we're going to miss their presence on the field. Meanwhile, Shannon Hale has been solid in the two spot and has been a clutch hitter for us," she continued.

Losing each of these players is sure to take its toll on the make-up of the Wolves' squad in the future, but the quest for another strong showing in 2015 starts during the summer.

"They each play on their own club teams (Oswego East does not field a summer softball team), but I'll be heading out to some of their games to see if these players have the skills that fit in with our plan for next season," Nussle said. "It'll be a definite youth movement."




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