Softball: Marengo’s Gabby Christopher continues home run tear in win over Harvard

Sophomore shortstop has 9 homers in past 6 games

Marengo’s Gabby Christopher watches the flight of a home run against Harvard in varsity softball at Marengo Thursday.

MARENGO – Marengo coach Dwain Nance has had many talented players come through his program over the years.

Nobody has gone on an offensive tear like sophomore shortstop Gabby Christopher.

Christopher entered Thursday’s game with home runs in each of her past five games. She kept the streak going against Harvard, blasting two home runs for the third consecutive game to lead the Indians past the Hornets 12-0 in five innings in Kishwaukee River Conference play.

Christopher hit a two-run home run to straightaway center field in the bottom of the first inning and a no-doubter over the left field fence for three RBIs in the third.

Marengo’s Gabby Christopher is greeted by coach Rob Jasinski on a home run against Harvard in varsity softball at Marengo Thursday.

“I’ve not had a player explode like this,” said Nance, in his 17th season at Marengo. “It’s really fun to watch. But she’s worked hard all winter long. This isn’t coming by accident, it’s coming from hard work and knowing what she’s doing. She’s seeking good pitches to swing at.

“She’s zoned in. It’s amazing to watch.”

Christopher has an area-leading 13 home runs, nine in the past six games. Marengo’s single-season home run record is 17, set by Veronica Ruelius in 2015 and matched by Mariah Dionne in 2017.

As a team, Marengo (13-1, 3-0 KRC) has a staggering 37 homers in 14 games. Thursday’s starting pitcher Lilly Kunzer provided her seventh, a three-run blast in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.

Christopher said the biggest difference between this year and last is her ever-growing confidence. Both of her homers Thursday came against NCAA Division I Belmont commit Tallulah Eichholz, who was one of the area’s top pitchers last spring with 239 strikeouts.

“I knew we were going to be a home run-hitting team, but this many, that’s insane.”

—  Lilly Kunzer, Marengo senior pitcher

“I think having the team behind my back has been huge for me this season,” said Christopher, who had six home runs last season. “As a freshman on varsity last year, I didn’t have too much confidence. Just having people around me to make me better and giving me criticism to make me better, it’s given me the motivation to do this.”

Teams have not pitched around Christopher despite her explosion, Nance said. The Indians’ lineup does not make it easy to pick and choose. In addition to Christopher and Kunzer, AJ Pollnow (five homers), Mia Feidt (four), Emily White (three) and Kylee Jensen (two) have multiple home runs.

“Where do you find a hole?” Hornets coach Becky Edinger said. “It’s hard to attack that. They’re a team you know you have to be ready for, and you know they’re going to perform.”

Marengo’s Lilly Kunzer, left, is greeted by Mia Feidt after Kunzer homered to clinch a win against Harvard in varsity softball at Marengo Thursday.

Kunzer, who pitched a perfect game and hit two homers against Fenton on Wednesday, said it is a lot of fun pitching with so much support.

“I was expecting us to be pretty good, but really, these home runs in the past week have really surprised me,” said Kunzer, who allowed three hits and struck out seven in the win. “I knew we were going to be a home run-hitting team, but this many? That’s insane.”

Pollnow went 3 for 3 with two runs scored; Jensen added a triple, two runs and an RBI; and Macy Noe had a double and drove in one. Marissa Young and Feidt had two hits and one RBI apiece, and White had a double.

Eichholz, Manhatyn Brincks and Emma Ribar had singles for Harvard (1-6, 0-3). Eichholz allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits in three innings, striking out seven.

Marengo played Woodstock North on Friday and hosts a tournament Saturday with games against Warren Township and Riverdale. The Indians hope to keep the home run party going.

“I didn’t know that we’d have this much power, I thought it might be more ground ball, line drives, but this has been easy to coach, I’ll tell you that,” Nance said. “I told them that all these home runs will bring fans to the stands.”