Softball: Ottawa’s Bukantis makes early lead hold up vs. Morris

Pirates pitcher fires shutout at Redskins

MORRIS – Every pitcher enjoys taking the mound with a lead. Ottawa’s Abby Bukantis is no exception, and her team provided her a two-run lead before she took the mound Friday in a 4-0 Interstate 8 Conference win over Morris.

Lauren Carlson and Zoe Harris each slugged a solo home run in the top of the first for the Pirates (7-0, 3-0), giving Bukantis all the runs she needed.

“It’s nice to have the lead before I go out to the mound,” Bukantis said. “It’s a big relief, and I know I can relax and not every pitch has to be perfect.”

Bukantis struck out nine in her seven innings of work, scattered nine hits and did not walk a batter. She worked her way out of several jams, stranding four Morris runners in scoring position.

“Abby threw a lot of strikes, and she had a lot of movement through the strike zone,” Ottawa coach Adam Lewis said. “When she does that, it’s hard to get very good contact against her.”

After Ottawa took the 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Morris (5-4, 2-1) threatened in the bottom half. With two outs, Kylee Claypool (2 hits) and Ella Davis (2 hits) both singled, putting runners on first and third before Bukantis ended the inning with a strikeout. In the bottom of the second, the Redskins had another scoring threat, as Taylor Nelson and Maddy Shannon each singled with one out. A grounder to Bukantis moved the runners to second and third, but Bukantis again ended the threat with a strikeout.

“My best pitch tonight was probably my curveball,” Bukantis said. “It didn’t really bother me that they had so many left-handed hitters (six). I just try to throw strikes. My defense did a really good job today. I can’t do it without them.”

Ottawa gave Bukantis some insurance in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Makenna Chiaventone singled and stole second. Cassie Turk walked and Carlson singled to right, scoring Chiaventone. Carlson went to second on the throw home, and Turk came all the way around to score on the attempt to get Carlson out at second. Carlson finished with two hits and two RBIs.

“Lauren has really come on for us in the last couple of games,” Lewis said.

Morris again had a chance to score in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Kennedy Dransfeldt (2 hits) reached on a bunt single and, an out later, went to third on a single by Claypool. Davis followed with a hard grounder to second that Ryleigh Stehl fielded and threw Davis out at first.

“We out-hit them (9-8),” Morris coach Jen Bamonte said. “They got the two home runs early, but that’s going to happen. We threatened in a lot of innings, but we just couldn’t string the hits together. Our defense was solid. I am not worried about this game. It was tight and it could have gone either way if we got a hit at the right time.

“I thought Sara Thomas was amazing at third base. She has made it her mission this year to keep her starting position, and she has saved us a lot of runs with her defense.”

Rob Oesterle

Rob has been a sports writer for the Morris Herald-News and Joliet Herald-News for more than 20 years. He is currently also writing news for the Morris Herald-News.