Touching All the Bases: On Strikeout Breast Cancer Day, Oak Forest catcher Emily Naegele came through in the clutch, bombing a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the Bengals past Lincoln-Way East 5-2 in a matchup of softball powers.
The two teams viewed the game as a tuneup before the IHSA playoffs begin next week. And there was great competition from the get-go.
In the bottom of the second, the Oak Forest bats came alive. Shortstop Jourdan Skirha hit a solo home run. Then, two batters later, designated player Ashley Ventrella smacked a solo homer herself, and Oak Forest led 2-0.
Lincoln-Way East responded, however, in the top of the third. Right fielder Carissa Ernat hit an RBI double. Then, Ernat came around to score on an RBI single from Aubrey DeGroot, and the game was tied at 2.
From there, Oak Forest starting pitcher Emily Norton, and Lincoln-Way East pitchers Kacyee Hart and Sarah Esposito took the spotlight. Norton finished the game without allowing another run, while Hart and Esposito combined to shut down the Oak Forest attack until Naegele’s heroics in the seventh.
Patch’s MVP: Oak Forest catcher Emily Naegele (2-for-4, 3 RBIs, home run). Naegele's homer finished off the day for the Bengals.
Oak Forest Leaders: In addition to Naegele, starting pitcher Emily Norton (7 innings pitched, 7 strikeouts, 2 earned runs). Shortstop Jourdan Skirha (1-for-3 with a solo home run). Designated player Ashley Ventrella (1-for-2 with a solo home run).
Lincoln-Way East Leaders: Right fielder Carissa Ernat (1-for-2 with an RBI). Aubrey DeGroot (1-for-2 with an RBI). Starting pitcher Sarah Esposito (3.1 innings pitched). Pitcher Kacyee Hart (3.1 innings pitched, 2 strikeouts).
Quotable: Oak Forest catcher Emily Naegele on her game-winning at-bat: “I had the same situation before in the fifth inning (runners in scoring position), and I was so mad at myself for grounding out to third base. I said to myself, ‘Come on, I need to be a leader!’ But, I heard the whole dugout screaming, ‘Confidence! Confidence!’ So I said to myself, ‘Not today, I’ll hit this ball.’ Then, it just clicked.”
Quotable II: Lincoln-Way East coach Katie Meader on using the game as a tuneup for the playoffs: “This is always a great game that we like to play prior to the postseason. And, just as we told our team, we played a great game, but there are little things within the game that we need to improve on for next week.”
Team Records: Oak Forest improves to 25-4. Lincoln-Way East falls to 20-7.
What’s Next: Oak Forest plays at Stagg on Monday while, Lincoln-Way East starts the playoffs on Tuesday against the winner of Bloom vs. Thornwood at the Lincoln-Way East Regional.