Prep softball: Sycamore defense powers win over Sterling

Sycamore's Faith Heil (right) gets congratulated after scoring by Ema Durst during their game against Sterling Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Sycamore High School.

SYCAMORE – Offense, defense, pitching – not one aspect of Sycamore’s game is dominant over another, Spartans softball coach Jill Carpenter said.

On Tuesday in a nonconference game against Sterling, the defense stepped up in a 10-1 win over the Golden Warriors.

“I’ve said it all along, I don’t feel like we’re dominant in any one phase,” Carpenter said. “We’re really solid in all three. And that’s how you’re going to win games. Our pitchers are going to keep us in every game, our defense is going to make plays for our pitchers. We just have to come up with timely hits, and we’ve found different leaders to be that person on offense.”

The Spartans (26-3) didn’t commit an error in the game. In the top of the third inning with a 2-1 lead, No. 3 hitter Mya Lira hit a pop-up to the edge of the grass in center field. Addie McLaughlin came charging in, made the play, then doubled Ady Waldschmidt off first.

Brighton Snodgrass also made a leaping stab while running backward on a blooper behind her at second base, getting the out and keeping the Warriors (19-4) from eating into a 10-1 lead.

“We had a lot of good defensive plays,” McLaughlin said. “I think [the defense] is really good. Yeah, my play helped out Addison [Dierschow, Sycamore starting pitcher], helped us out on D.”

The first two Sterling hitters got singles off Dierschow to start the game, although she only allowed three hits in four innings of work on the day. Olivia Melcher scored on a sacrifice fly by Marley Sechrest, but Waldschmidt was stranded at third.

Sycamore scored on a wild pitch in the first and an error in the second to take a 2-1 lead. The Spartans added three in the fourth. Addi Armstrong and Kaitlyn Williams had RBI hits as the Warriors committed three errors in the inning.

Pitcher Sienna Stingley started the game for Sterling but was lifted in the top of the fifth. After Waldschmidt walked six batters and let five runs cross the plate, Stingley came back with the bases loaded and no one out, down 10-1. She retired the three batters she faced and did not allow a run to score, which would have ended the game.

“She’s a winner,” Sterling coach Donnie Dittmar said. “She got those three straight outs. I expect that out of her all the time. That’s the kind of player she is.”

Bella Jacobs pitched three innings for the Spartans, not allowing a hit until back-to-back singles by Melcher and Waldschmidt in the seventh. But she retired Lira and Stingley to end the game.

Stingley allowed five runs in the game, four of which were earned.

“It hasn’t really been an issue,” Dittmar said. “We’ve played really good, solid defense, solid hitting, solid pitching, and tonight we didn’t really have any of them.”

Carpenter said she was glad her team took advantage of the six Sterling errors.

“You have to capitalize against a pitcher like Stingley,” Carpenter said. “She’s been very good for a long time. So if we’re going to get an extra base because of a miscue, we have to be ready to take it.”

The game was a rematch of last year’s title game of the Class 3A Belvidere North Sectional final, won 6-5 by the Spartans. The teams could meet in a sectional final again this year.

With the postseason starting next week, Dittmar said he expects his team to bounce back.

“We just have to get it back together, refocus and continue on with the season,” Dittmar said. “In most cases we have that never-say-die mentality. It doesn’t matter where the game is at, we’re going to keep putting the pressure on. Tonight, obviously, we didn’t have that, but I’m sure they’ll get it back together.”

McLaughlin, Faith Heil and Armstrong each scored twice for the Spartans, who had six hits in the game.

The game was the first since Friday for the Spartans, an 8-7 loss at Oswego, the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A Plainfield North Sectional. They had won nine in a row before that. And with the win over the Warriors, McLaughlin said the team is feeling good for when the postseason starts.

“I think our confidence should be through the roof right now,” McLaughlin said. “After beating them in sectionals last year, this was a great win for us. I feel like we should keep going.”

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