Softball: Hayden Sujack’s homer, Holly Smith’s diving stop help St. Charles East top St. Charles North

St. Charles East players celebrate Hayden Sujack’s homerun during a game against St. Charles North at St. Charles East on Friday, April 19, 2024.

ST. CHARLES – A diving play is always a thrilling way to end a game.

But it becomes oh, so sweeter when it’s a diving play with the bases loaded and two outs to preserve a one-run lead against a crosstown rival.

For St. Charles East’s Holly Smith, that was just the case.

Her diving catch at first base put a stop to St. Charles North’s late-game rally for good as the Saints held on for a 4-3 victory over their crosstown rival April 19.

“I dive a lot, so it was just really fun,” Smith said. “It was definitely a highlight of my Saints career for sure.”

The Saints (11-5, 2-2 DuKane Conference) entered the top of the seventh with a 4-2 lead, but the North Stars made pitcher Grace Hautzinger work for the final three outs.

Anna Lamb started the inning with a pinch-hit solo home run to center field to cut the lead to one.

After Hautzinger got the next two batters on a strikeout and groundout, St. Charles North (8-1, 2-1) saw its next three batters get on base on a double, intentional walk and infield single after Smith couldn’t get her foot on first base in time.

“I was frustrated because I thought that we got her out,” Smith said. “I felt like I blew it.”

St. Charles North players celebrate teammate Abby Zawadzki’s homerun during a game at St. Charles East on Friday, April 19, 2024.

The misplay led to a battle between Hautzinger and Abby Zawadski, who had put the North Stars up 2-1 in the fourth inning with a two-run shot to right-center field.

With a 1-1 count, Zawadski put the ball in play but Smith made the catch to end the rally.

“To put ourselves in that situation shows you what we’re made of,” North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. “But I thought that Hautzinger just hit her spots really well in that at-bat and that was a nice defensive play at first.”

Hayden Sujack put the Saints in the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run home run over the center field wall for her third extra-base hit of the game. Up 3-0 in the count, she said she was just trying to find a pitch to hit.

“When [pitcher Paige Murray] got that first strike, I was like, ‘OK, she’s going to throw it again,’ ” Sujack said. “And I saw that next pitch right out of her hand and it was almost like a movie scene.”

St. Charles East’s Hayden Sujack gets onto second base during a game against St. Charles North at St. Charles East on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Sujack finished 3 for 3 with a home run and two doubles, including a double in the first inning to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.

“From the start, I knew that’s what my team needed and I’ve been lacking that so I really wanted to come and help them,” Sujack said. “So starting that off and getting that going, I think that always just gives everyone a little bit of motivation and gets the ball rolling.”

St. Charles East coach Jarod Gutesha said playing close games against good teams, especially when its a rivalry game, are always fun and that games against the North Stars always bring a giant fan turnout.

“It’s easy to say it was a fun game when you win,” he said. “But these games are always so competitive. Everybody’s into it and the energy from both sides makes it an enjoyable day.”

Gutesha also said getting the win over St. Charles North is a big momentum boost as the team heads into the latter half of the season.

“When the kids look at the schedule, usually the very first thing they look for is when we play St. Charles North,” he said. “It just adds a sort of excitement and hype to the game and we just hope we can come play in competitive games in the future.”

Poulin felt the North Stars didn’t play their best in their first loss of the season. He also said playing in a rivalry game against quality competition such as the Saints will help his young team get better in the future.

“I feel like we have a ton of depth in this group,” Poulin said. “These girls are just gaining experience and are getting better every day. And I think that this is going to be a special team when it’s all said and done.”