OTTAWA – One would have a hard time convincing both the Ottawa and Streator softball teams, especially after Thursday’s clash at King Field, that any game is ever over, even when one would swear on a stack that it really truly is finished.
The Pirates were down to their last strike with two outs in the last of the seventh inning and No. 9 hitter Ryleigh Stehl at the plate facing a hurler who had to that point been masterful in Streator’s Jadyn Hansen. However, Hansen’s next pitch clipped Stehl on the calf, sending her tumbling and creating all the opening the home team needed.
Lead-off hitter Kendall Eslinger followed with a single to left, Lauren Carlson smacked an RBI hit to center field and Abi Claus finished the rally with a line-drive hit down the third-base line, driving in the game-winner in Ottawa’s wild 2-1 victory over Streator.
The exciting finish made a winner of OHS pitcher Abby Bukantis, who came on in the fifth to relieve starter Mackenzie Oslanzi after she’d been touched for SHS’ only run on an RBI hit by Mari Byers. It also handed the tough-luck loss to Hansen, who until the seventh had worked out of a couple of jams but permitted the hosts’ just five hits prior to those last three.
It’s definitely never over until it’s over.”
— Ottawa softball coach Adam Lewis
“It’s definitely never over until it’s over,” said a smiling Ottawa coach Adam Lewis, his club now 10-1 with the win. “We didn’t string a lot of things together and left quite a few runners on base with the weak contact we were making too many times through the order against their pitcher mixing up hard in and soft away to keep us off balance. She threw a nice game … but so did Mackenzie in her first varsity start, and so did Abby slamming the door.
“We got runners on base, but just didn’t get the timely hit we needed until the seventh … It was great to see Ryleigh and for the top of our order to come through to break it open, and it was great to see Abi deliver. She’s been great in high-pressure spots for us all year.”
It didn’t seem that moment would ever come for OHS, as they came away from a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first when a diving catch by third baseman Anna Schmitz of a foul pop helped Hansen work out of it. In the third, Eslinger led off with a triple, but one out later on Claus’s flyball to left, she was thrown out on a great throw from Anna Gotch to catcher Mari Byers. Ottawa also failed in a two-on, no-out situation in the fifth.
By that time, Streator (8-3) had eked out a 1-0 edge. Hansen singled to start the visitors fifth and with one out, moved up on a groundout and took third on a wild pitch. That’s when Byers grounded her RBI knock over the bag at second.
Ottawa managed just one hit in the fifth and sixth and through two outs in the seventh when Stehl was unable to skip away from a pitch after her legs. That’s when Eslinger clubbed a single to left and Carlson lined a single to center to score Stehl, both Eslinger and Carlson moving up on the late throw to the plate. Claus then turned on an inside fastball to plate the former with the winner.
“I kinda got an uncomfortable feeling when that batter got hit. After that, it was anybody’s game, but it kinda switched the momentum to their side,” said Streator coach Louis Ondrey. “Jadyn really located the ball well tonight. She mixed up her speeds really well for the first six innings ... That’s the thing about Jadyn, that she can allow runners on base, but then toughens up and manages to keep hitters off-balance.
“But this time the hit batter brought up the top of the order and they had hit all night long, and they hit again. They just got the hits when they needed them.”