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Home Run Derby

Amelia Jimenez homers twice, Sydney Rau goes deep once in Downers Grove South’s crosstown win

DOWNERS GROVE – Amelia Jimenez’s friendly reminders are hard to miss.

Jimenez, a Downers Grove South senior, has key phrases scribbled in red ink across the palm of her hands and wrists, and up down each of her fingers.

“I’ve written in my hats and helmets, but you can’t take your helmet off every time,” Jimenez said. “When I go to bat, I look at the two on my wrists, and when I go to the field, I look at the ones on my fingers. It helps me slow the game down.”

She got the message May 9.

Jimenez socked two home runs, the second a go-ahead two-run shot in an eight-run fourth inning. Sydney Rau also went deep as the Mustangs beat crosstown rival Downers Grove North 12-3 at Downers Grove South.

The Mustangs (21-2), who have hit 35 homers on the season, ran their win streak to 14 straight.

Melissa Manzo homered for Downers Grove North (19-4) on a cool, windy afternoon.

“The wind was blowing out,” Downers Grove South coach Jim Cushing said, “and we took full advantage.”

Jimenez, who will play collegiately at Elgin Community College, is taking full advantage of her last high school season.

Despite hitting .488 as a junior, she said she struggled this past fall. She broke down her swing, trying to better pick and choose what pitches to hit.

Most important, she worked to develop a positive mindset.

That’s where her creative writing came in.

“My mechanics were there, but sometimes I’m mentally not there and it doesn’t show up,” Jimenez said. “I have more of a positive mindset now.”

Jimenez, leading off the second inning with Downers Grove South trailing 2-0, waited on a changeup and hit a high drive that carried over the fence in center.

In the fourth, Jimenez turned on an offering and crushed a no-doubter for a 4-2 lead, sparking the Mustangs’ eight-run inning.

“I don’t try to hit the ball over the fence; I just try to make contact,” Jimenez said. “Fortunately, the wind was blowing out.”

Her day was no anomaly, though.

Jimenez is hitting near .500 with eight homers.

“She kind of fools you. She’s not a big girl, but she packs a big swing,” Cushing said. “She has very quick hands.”’

The game, moved to Downers Grove South because of unplayable conditions at McCollum Park, couldn’t have started better for the visiting Trojans.

Karly Bernhard, who was 3-for-4, doubled on the second pitch of the game. On the next pitch, Manzo homered to straight center.

The next three batters reached on a dropped third strike, single and walk.

“We were a hit away from kind of breaking things open,” Trojans coach Eric Landschoot said. “Which is actually refreshing because lately we have been starting games slow. It gave us some confidence early on.”

Downers Grove South pitcher Randi McKay, though, bore down to retire the next three batters, two on strikeouts, to keep it at 2-0.

“That was a key. We got out of there very cheap,” Cushing said. “To me, the whole game swinged right then. It gave the girls some confidence, and it gave Randi some confidence.”

It’s nothing new from McKay, a four-year starter and Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit.

She allowed baserunners in all but two innings, but kept the Trojans at bay while striking out seven.

“She’s so composed,” Cushing said. “She got hit hard, but still comes back. She’s not an overpowering pitcher, but she’s tough as nails.”

Downers Grove South got a run back in the second on Jimenez’s first homer, and tied it in the third on Rau’s solo homer to right-center.

The floodgates opened in the fourth.

After Jimenez’s homer, Daly Garland and Morgan Rau singled, Carlee Baker singled to load the bases and Maggie Greco smoked a two-run single to make it 6-2.

Two more runs scored on an errant throw to home on a McKay grounder.

“Today was one of those games that when it rains it pours,” Landschoot said. “We had that one inning where the wheels fell off. You can’t do that against a good team.”

Kaitlyn Wilson’s two-run single capped the eight-run fifth, and she singled in the Mustangs’ 11th run in the sixth.

“They’re a much better team than the score,” Cushing said of Downers Grove North. “They have good pitching; we just hit it today.”

Indeed, Downers Grove North boasts a deep pitching staff.

The Trojans, though, didn’t throw their ace.

Boston College recruit Estelle Czech threw nine innings May 8 against Lyons Township, the resumption of a suspended game and a full game after it.

She could be on the mound in a few weeks against Downers Grove South as the two teams are lined up to potentially meet in a sectional semifinal.

“Being in the middle of a busy conference season, I didn’t want to potentially burn Estelle out,” Landschoot said. “She was ready. Estelle is a competitor.”