RURAL STREATOR - Adjustments are sometimes called the game within the game. They were on full display early Thursday evening as the Seneca Fighting Irish softball squad visited Woodland/Flanagan/Cornell to complete the rivals’ key early-season Tri-County Conference series.
Be they pitch-to-pitch, at-bat-to-at-bat, inning-to-inning or even game-to-game after Seneca’s comfortable Tuesday win, adjustments were the name of the game at the Windy Confines as the defending conference champion Irish survived a tough test from the up-and-coming Warriors, 8-4.
“Seeing them on Tuesday and having the result that we did (an 11-2 loss), I knew and I think our girls knew that we could show that we are a better team than we did Tuesday,” WFC coach Jordan Farris said. “I was really happy with the adjustments that were made. ...
“We took a big lump, they took a big swing on us that first inning (with four runs) ... but throughout the game we made adjustments. I thought both teams did a really nice job of adjusting.”
Both offenses came out prepared against the hurlers they’d faced 48 hours prior.
Seneca (8-2 overall, 4-0 TCC) put four runs on the board in the top of the first, started off by leadoff hitter Maggie Carpenter’s triple to right-center on the game’s opening pitch from Warriors ace Shae Simons. Maddie Klicker (squeeze bunt), Sam Vandevelde (double), Kennedy Hartwig (another squeeze) and Taya Roe (triple) went on to provide first-frame RBIs to put the Irish ahead 4-0.
“This was a really fun game,” said Vandevelde, who doubled twice on the day, “especially coming here after Tuesday night and knowing they’d want to beat us. Scoring the first inning really helped today.”
The Warriors (5-2, 2-2) didn’t lay down, however, as No. 2 hitter Ella Sibert blasted a rare over-the-fence home run at the Windy Confines to make it 4-1. It was a sign of things to come as the WFC lineup pressured Seneca ace Carpenter consistently all game despite playing from behind.
Seneca put up four more in the visitors’ third — with Vandevelde (leadoff double), Zoe Hougas (RBI single), Hartwig (RBI single), Madi Mino (RBI single) and Maggie Carpenter (sacrifice fly) providing the big hits. Again, though, WFC countered in the home half, scoring three runs on five singles from Audrey Jenkins, Sydnee Plesko, Simons, Cloee Johnston and Clara Downey.
The fifth-inning, soft-lined safety to score Jenkins was the second of three Plesko singles on the day.
“Tuesday was pretty rough. They’re definitely the best team we’ve played so far,” Plesko said of Seneca, “so this was some great experience for us, especially our freshmen because we’re just such a young team. But coming out tonight we were prepared and we knew what to expect, so we just came out here to give it our all.”
“This is my first time in this conference doing the Tuesday-Thursday thing,” said second-year but first-season Seneca head coach Brian Holman. “It’s way harder than I thought, especially when you’re playing a good team like the one Jordan’s got. The adjustments are constant, because you play 14 innings in a little over 48 hours, and you’re trying to make the game different, but it’s all the same people out there. ...
“We were fortunate to have two big innings, and I thought we executed outside of that pretty well.”
The next adjustment was made on the parts of Carpenter (7 IP, 4 ER, 10 H, 0 BB, 11 K) and Simons (7 IP, 8 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 4 K) — not only to the opposing offenses but to a strike zone which was generous but consistent at the top of the zone and on the inside corner. Both put up zeroes across across the board after the busy third inning, accounting for the 8-4 final.
Vandevelde with her two doubles and one RBI, Hartwig with two RBIs, and two-hit performances put in by Hougas and Addie Bland led the Irish offense.
It was Plesko with three singles and an RBI, Sibert with the solo homer and two hits apiece from Jenkins and Simons for WFC, which got the potential tying run to the on-deck circle in the seventh but got no closer.
“It’s one of these where you can learn a lot from a loss, and I thought we learned a lot about ourselves today,” Farris said.