Softball: Grace Cavanaugh’s blast jump-starts Reed-Custer in 5-4 win over Ottawa

Comets senior’s 3-run homer in the first inning is key blow in win over host Pirates

Reed Custer’s Grace Cavanaugh is greeted by her team mates at home plate after hitting a 1st inning home run Friday against Ottawa.

OTTAWA – With runners on first and second and one out in the top of the first inning Friday, Reed-Custer senior Grace Cavanaugh quickly found herself down 0-2 against Ottawa starting pitcher Maura Condon.

Cavanaugh was able to work the count full by fouling off a handful of tough pitches, then smacked a three-run home run over the left-field fence. The blast helped jump-start the Comets to a 5-4 victory over the host Pirates at King Field.

“My mindset after getting down 0-2 right away was the same today as is it always is and that’s just trying to put the ball in play,” Cavanaugh said of her 10-pitch at-bat. “In that situation, I’m just trying to fight off any close pitches and hopefully eventually get my pitch. I felt like as that at-bat continued I was getting more and more closer to really getting the timing down. I was able to work it back to a full count and then got a pitch to hit right down the middle.

“I’m really just happy to be able to help the team and to have helped us get off to a good start.”

“Grace (Cavanaugh) was able to get us that early lead, we were able add a run here and there, and our pitchers did a great job of holding on to that lead.”

—  Madison Hiestand, Reed-Custer softball coach

Cavanaugh, along with Reese Brown, finished with a pair of hits for the visitors, while Addison Hartman recorded four singles in as many at-bats. In the circle, the freshmen duo of Brown (Win, 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) and Kristin Klein (3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) didn’t surrender the early lead.

“[Brown and Klein] have both been so consistent all season so far,” Reed-Custer coach Madison Hiestand said, her team now 5-1 on the season. “They do a great job of attacking the strike zone and they are hungry to get outs. They were both on a state championship team in middle school, so while they are both freshmen, they both have a considerable amount of experience playing in big games and pitching in tight games. Grace was able to get us that early lead, we were able add a run here and there, and our pitchers did a great job of holding on to that lead.”

The Comets made it 4-0 in the second when Jessica Janopoulos drew a one-out walk and pinch runner Morgan Toler scored on an RBI single by Hartman.

R-C extended the lead to 5-0 in the fourth on three straight singles by Janopoulos, Brown and Hartman before a run-scoring groundout by Amber Syc off Ottawa reliever Peyton Bryson (5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K).

The Pirates (5-3) scored twice in the fourth with Piper Lewis, Bobbi Snook, Condon and Kendall Lowery lining consecutive singles with Condon scoring a run and the other tally coming across on a throwing error.

In the sixth, the hosts drew to within one run when Lowery singled and scored on the back end of a double stealb and Bryson lifted a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Rylee Harsted.

But in the bottom of the seventh, Klein retired the Pirates in order on three straight popouts to end the game.

“My main message after the game was that we as a team have to be more detail orientated,” Ottawa coach Adam Lewis said. “Defensively, we can’t give away easy bases like we did, and we have to make outs when they are given to us, like not catching a foul ball where two players are right there, don’t communicate and the ball drops giving the batter another chance. We have to make sure we are seeing every sign and executing what we want to do. It was a lot of the little things that we didn’t do that all added up to the outcome today.

“Peyton had a great day for us in the circle and at the plate. She came in and really kept them off balance for the most part and kept us in the game. We needed her to come in and kind of right the ship, and she did that very well.”

Reed-Custer is back in action Monday with an Illinois Central Eight Conference game at Streator, while Ottawa is scheduled to play Wednesday at Oswego.

Peyton Bryson lets go with a pitch after coming in relief Friday against Reed Custer at Ottawa.