Softball: Makayla Hammer, Wheaton North speed past Wheaton Warrenville South

Hammer scores from second on infield error, Erin Metz strikes out eight in 1-0 win

Wheaton North's Makayla Hammer (11) gets a double during the game against Wheaton Warrenville South on Friday April 19, 2024.

WHEATON – A varsity reserve in 2023, Makayla Hammer is excelling as the only sophomore starter for a talented Wheaton North softball team.

“I’m taking every opportunity that I can,” Hammer said. “Basically I sat last year and this season I decided to take it and just every game play my best, play all out.”

With two outs in the second inning Friday, Hammer displayed her speed while scoring from second base after an infield error for the lone run in the Falcons’ 1-0 victory at rival Wheaton Warrenville South.

Wheaton North (13-2, 3-0 in DuKane Conference) has won six straight. Hammer reached base with one of the Falcons’ five hits after being down 0-and-2 and scored on Abby Del Prieto’s grounder.

“I remember I saw the overthrow and I started sprinting as fast as I could and took the plate,” Hammer said. “We’re a good team. They’re a good team. But all that matters is who capitalizes on each other’s mistakes.”

“Once she gets on, she can run bases,” Wheaton North coach Allie Ravanesi said. “It’s always good to beat Wheaton South and it’s always a 1-0 game or 2-1.”

Wheaton North senior pitcher Erin Metz recorded a four-hit shutout with two walks and eight strikeouts, including five of the last eight outs. WW South pitcher Maddie Pool also was tough with three strikeouts and two walks, with help from big defensive plays.

Wheaton North's Erin Metz (6) pitches during an April 2024 game at Wheaton Warrenville South.

In separate innings, the Tigers (9-5, 1-3) had one runner reach third base and two reach second. Metz closed out each threat with strikeouts.

“Every year they’ve been such a great team and every game we’ve played them it’s been close. It’s always nice to come out on top,” Metz said. “I have this thing where I don’t warm up enough sometimes. Being cold and stuff, it is harder to throw harder but as I throw more pitches, you’re warming up all of your muscles and you get more confidence.”

Wheaton North leadoff hitter Monica Kading had two hits. Ava Hartnett and Metz also singled. The Tigers have lost three straight and four of their last five – all by shutout with three of them 1-0 results. No. 6 hitter Allie Michalowski was 2 for 3, and Parker Leonard and Brooke Struebing also had hits.

WW South coach Jeff Pawlak hopes his team can improve its bunting and two-strike hitting. The Tigers had runners on first and third with one out in the second when Metz got back-to-back strikeouts on seven pitches.

“We’ve had a lot of balls in play. We’ve played really good defense and then we’ll have a mishap,” Pawlak said. “We are not a team that’s going to win 7-6. We’re a team that’s got to play really good defense, pitch and then we’ve got to play small ball. We didn’t execute the little stuff. I’m proud of how we competed. No moral victories but we’ve got to clean those little things up.”

Wheaton Warrenville South's Brooke Struebing (16) throws to first base for an out while taking on Wheaton North on Friday April 19, 2024, while taking on Wheaton North.

Hammer (.306, 4 HR, 12 RBI) has a team-high nine stolen bases and is third with 15 runs scored behind offensive juggernauts Reagan Crosthwaite (.471, 10 HR, 28 RBI) and Metz (.520, 5 HR, 21 RBI).

“(Hammer is) so fast. She’s so strong,” Ravanesi said. “She just works and wants to do the best for herself and her team.”

Right before Hammer scored, the Falcons had runners on second and third but third baseman Struebing caught a screaming liner and doubled the runner off third. WW South right fielder Nelia Kirichun also threw out a runner at home to end the fifth inning and second baseman Leonard and first baseman Michalowski combined on another double play in the fourth on a popup.

After a leadoff single in the second, Metz caught a sacrifice bunt and turned it into a double play. After the third began with a leadoff walk, diving third baseman Kading caught a bunt in foul territory. Second in the DuKane two of the last three seasons, the Falcons are seeking their first conference title since 1986, the year of their only regional title.

“That was definitely one of the big goals,” Metz said. “We have a very competitive conference. I think we’re even stronger this year than last year.”