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Crystal Lake

Prairie Ridge softball tops Cary-Grove

CRYSTAL LAKE – Whenever Sammy Hempen and some of her Prairie Ridge teammates feel a little off when hitting, they waste no time getting in extra swings during a game by using the cage next to their dugout.

With her mechanics not feeling quite right, Hempen decided to take swings off a tee before her second at-bat Tuesday against Cary-Grove. The extra work immediately paid dividends for the senior. With the Wolves leading by a run in the second inning, Hempen hit a two-run single and Kate Didier followed with an RBI triple. 

Prairie Ridge capitalized on a multitude of C-G mental and physical errors as the Wolves cruised to an 11-2 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win. The victory keeps the Wolves (16-7, 7-3 FVC Valley) in contention for the division title.

Hempen finished 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs. She came inches away from a three-run homer in the fifth, but the ball hit off the top of the left field fence and bounced back into play.

"All week, we've been focused on going back to our mechanics," Hempen said. "Just focus on base hits, and the big hits will come. It definitely helped (hitting off the tee). ... They're a really good team so take advantage of any mistake they make is important."

The bottom line, Trojans coach Tammy Olson said, was C-G didn't show up to play against the Wolves and it was "inexcusable."

"I hope it burns in their hearts right now about what they just did," Olson said. "No, I don't want them to forget this (game). I want them to be mad about this. Because if they can get mad about it and want more, it's going to be effective. Learn from your mistakes."

C-G (12-10, 5-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first on Grace Pilz's RBI single. But C-G gave the lead right back to the Wolves, thanks in part to two errors in the first. Claire Bowman led off the first with a single, advancing on Hempen's sacrifice bunt, and Didier reached on a fielding error.

C-G pitcher Lauren Stanley got a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but Michelle O'Keefe hit an RBI single and another run scored on C-G's second error of the inning to go ahead 2-1. Prairie Ridge wouldn't relinquish the lead. Emily Widger hit a solo home run for the Wolves and Didier finished 1 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs.

The Wolves scored three runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings. Amy Clemment went 2 for 4 with a double and two runs scored for the Trojans. C-G had the bases loaded with nobody out in the third but only came away with one run. Wolves freshman starting pitcher Hailey Baker (13-6) showed plenty of poise working out of the jam.

"I'm very pleased with how we hit the ball." Wolves coach Mike Buck said. "When you hit the ball, things are going to happen."

Pilz drove in another run on a single to keep the bases loaded, still with no one out. Baker struck out the next two hitters, both on full counts, and with the count full again, she got the final out on a great play by Hempen at shortstop. Hempen fielded a deflected ball off second baseman Widger's glove and scooped it up with her foot on second just in time to get the out to leave the bases loaded.

"I'm very excited about our defense," Buck said. "We played solid defense today, and that's really the key. I know we're going to be able to hit the ball. We've just got to play good, solid defense."

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