DOWNERS GROVE — The news became official Monday.
Dale Ryndak, a junior pitcher and first baseman for Downers Grove North’s softball team, will miss the season after tearing the ACL and meniscus in her right knee during the Trojans’ season-opening game against Nazareth March 26.
The Trojans struggled in a doubleheader split with Glenbard East Saturday, but they played their best game of the season in Monday’s 11-0, five-inning win over visiting Wheaton Warrenville South.
“That was good after Saturday,” North coach Mark Magro said. “We knew the decision (about Dale) was coming out today and we knew it was probably going to be bad, but now that it’s out in the open I think they relaxed a little bit. Everybody’s got to step up and that’s what we’ve been talking about.”
That’s exactly what happened Monday as the Trojans improved to 3-1 on the year. Eight different players scored, six players drove in RBIs and North pounded out nine hits. An eight-run second inning, capped by Ali Woitivich’s two-run homer, chased out South’s starting pitcher and put North ahead 9-0.
“I honestly wasn’t even thinking,” Woitivich said of her homer, the first of her high school career. “It didn’t even feel like I swung that hard.”
Woitivich’s bomb capped an inning in which Carolyn Nojiri, Madeline Wojciak, Brittany Nagy and Brittany Claver also picked up RBIs. It was the kind of offensive performance North has been looking for and one it hopes can continue.
“It was the first game of the season where we finally all connected and put everything together,” Woitivich said. “It’s such a great feeling knowing that we did it this early in the season.”
Even when the Trojans didn’t get hits, they still made the Tigers’ defense work for the out as North struck out just twice.
“Today was the best pitcher we’ve seen so far this year and we hit the ball well,” Magro said. “The girls were patient, they didn’t try to swing off their heels and they hit the ball hard. That’s what we’ve talked about. Every game you’ve got to have good at bats. If you have good at bats, good things will happen.”
On the mound, Elaine Heflin, North’s other ace pitcher, notched 11 strikeouts and yielded just one hit — with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. Ryndak arrived just after first pitch to watch from the dugout. The Trojans know they need to band together in her absence to keep their winning tradition going, but there is an extra bit of motivation to win with her on the sidelines.
“Dale is obviously one of our key players but one player doesn’t make a team, and as awful as it was (to lose her) it kind of made us focus in more,” Woitivich said. “We know how bad she wants to be out there, and we can’t lose when she’s sitting there watching. Do it for her, do it for yourself and do it for our school.”