MAPLE PARK – A sluggish early performance on offense and defense translated into a slow start for the Kaneland softball team in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference race.
The Knights’ conference opener quickly turned sour and Kaneland couldn’t fully recover Thursday in a 5-2 loss to Yorkville.
Yorkville scored all of its runs in the first two innings while Kaneland didn’t manage a base runner against Yorkville right-hander Rachael Owens until the bottom of the fourth.
“She was a good pitcher but we definitely should have hit better than we did,” Kaneland infielder Meg Cohrs said. “We haven’t been hitting our best. It’s been taking us once through the lineup to start hitting, and we’ve got to work on that because if we want to beat teams, we’ve got to jump out early. But we’ll get it.”
Cohrs shifted from shortstop to third base – where she made a crowd-pleasing, diving catch in the fourth inning – replacing injured standout Paige Kuefler. Kuefler, Kaneland’s cleanup hitter, took a line drive off her wrist in the top of the first. She stayed in the game to finish the inning but was removed to begin the second.
The Knights hope for the best for one of their top, all-around players.
“It started swelling up a little bit on her,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “It was a precautionary measure. We’re not going to leave her out there. She’ll go and get it X-rayed tonight, and we’ll see if there’s any damage to it.”
Kaneland junior pitcher Angie Morrow settled in after her rocky start – recording 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings – but the Foxes (8-4, 1-1 NI Big 12 East) produced enough early.
“Our loss to Morris [Wednesday] night, we did not hit the ball at all,” Foxes coach Kathi Dockstader said. “That was one of the things we talked about, we had to come and jump on them right away, score runs and play good defense.”
Yorkville managed three hits and a walk in scoring three runs in the top of the first.
Morrow would have escaped the second without more damage but Yorkville catcher Madeline Avery managed a bloop,-two out, two-run single over the head of Kaneland second baseman Morgan Weber for the Foxes’ final two runs.
Willis lamented some of Yorkville’s well-placed hits.
“It all balances out in the end, but you’ve got to play through that and you’ve got to make the plays when they’re presented to you,” Willis said.
Weber had Kaneland’s first hit of the day in the fourth, a double to deep center field before scoring on a softly lined double that hit the right-field chalkline by fellow freshman Rachel Goress.
The Knights (6-6, 0-1) weren’t as fortunate on a close play in right field as they sought to tighten the game in the bottom of the sixth.
With her team trailing, 5-1, Cohrs sliced a line drive that likely would have scored two runs but landed just foul. Moments later, she struck out to end the inning.
“I was hoping it was going to stay fair,” Cohrs said. “I saw it curving, I saw it curving, and all I could think was ‘Please, please.’ But it happens to the best of us.”
Kaneland’s final run came in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI triple from No. 8 hitter Morgan Sikon.
First baseman Hayley Contorno and Goress – who entered the game in left field as part of the Knights’ shuffling after Kuefler’s injury – had two hits apiece.