ST. CHARLES – Leigh VandeHei doesn’t have an ‘off’ switch.
VandeHei, St. Charles North’s junior center fielder, had one of several standout plays the North Stars made collectively to mash their way to a 20-10, five-inning victory over visiting Glenbard North on Wednesday.
One play, in particular, came in the third inning with the North Stars already leading 9-4.
VandeHei reached on an error with MacKenzie Patterson already on second. Ashlee Chantos sacrificed Patterson to third and VandeHei later stole second to put both runners in scoring position. On a subsequent wild pitch from Panthers reliever Hailey Noll, Patterson easily scored, but it was VandeHei who flashed her wheels to score from across the diamond to make it a seven-run difference at that point in the game.
“For me, whether it’s the outfield or [running the] bases, it’s just [about] always going,” VandeHei said. “Every pitch [defensively], I’m always thinking ‘You’re diving on this one’ because then, it’s a good jump.”
“On the bases, it’s pretty much: ‘You’re going, going, going until you see the ball is coming at you, especially rounding bases,” VandeHei continued. “So, I just try and go as hard as I can.”
VandeHei keeps what North Stars coach Tom Poulin allows for her in mind: The green light.
“He gives me freedom [to run] if I see [the ball] go,” VandeHei said. “I think that’s really helpful.
“If you just walk her, she might take second,” Poulin said. “If you don’t pay attention to her, know what I mean?”
VandeHei “isn’t coasting, ever.”
“She is a perfectionist. She’s really locked-in,” Poulin continued. “Reminds me of a lot about [2015 St. Charles North graduate] Sabrina Rabin with that approach to the game who was just not pleased; she could go 4 for 4 and have an outstanding game and she would find the things she needed to be better at.”
“[VandeHei] is so easy to coach and I have to actually tell her not to be so tough on herself,” Poulin said.
The North Stars (9-2, 4-1) started rough defensively with three fielding errors and Elizabeth Welch doubled in two runs as the Panthers (7-4, 3-3) jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead off of St. Charles North ace Ava Goettel.
The North Sars bounced back with four runs of their own, thanks to RBI doubles from Chantos and Megan Bauwens, an RBI sacrifice fly from Sophia Olman and an RBI single from Auburn Roberson.
The North Stars then piled on three runs in the the second. The lead ballooned to 14-4 by the conclusion of the third inning.
Glenbard North, however, wouldn’t go quietly. Freshman Tru Medina smashed a no-doubt grand slam over the left field fence to pull the Panthers within six.
St. Charles North then pushed across five runs in the fourth to make it 19-8. Medina responded with a two-run single, but Chantos ended the contest with an RBI base hit.
“[Medina] hit lefty the first two times, got a slap hit and used her speed. The second time, got the bases loaded, switched to the right side and [got the big swing],” Panthers coach Josh Sanew said. “The nice thing is she’s a freshman…Can do it all, can run and good power. She stayed back and hit the ball hard. She ripped that one. Good for her. It felt good.”