ROMEOVILLE — Originally, the schedule of the Minooka girls softball team did not include the first Southwest Prairie Conference game as its third contest overall. However, with brutal spring conditions wiping out eight of its games to this point, the Indians were just glad to be playing.
Opening up in Romeoville, Minooka took out its early season frustrations on the Spartans — winning the league contest by a 15-2 score in a game that lasted just five innings due to the run rule.
Minooka coach Mark Brown said that he was very pleased to see the way his team came out ready for the conference contest.
“Especially scoring 15 runs in three innings, I couldn’t be more pleased with that,” he said. “Especially on a cold day like today where the bats could end up being cold.”
Jackie Lilek was the winning pitcher for the Indians. She said the frigid temperatures were barely noticeable — at least when the sun was out.
“I didn’t think today was that cold. We’ve played in a lot colder,” Lilek said. “Well it did get a little colder when the sun went away, but I just tried to stay focused.”
On a day in which the Indians bats exploded, Lilek sailed through the Spartans lineup inside the circle — yielding just two unearned runs in the bottom of the third inning. A walk, two errors, a sacrifice bunt and a single resulted in the hosts cutting the lead to 12-2 at the time, but Lilek reached back and got two strikeouts looking to prevent further damage.
“She mainly shakes off the errors we sometimes make,” Minooka catcher Kelsey Smith said. “She does her best to keep us in the game.”
Lilek said that she though she may have been rushing a little bit there in the bottom of the third.
“I know when I rush my pitches, I have a tendency to throw a lot of balls,” she said. “I was starting to do that a little bit, so I had to refocus. The key is to stay focused on the task at hand and not get ahead of the inning.”
Smith said that Lilek had a lot more once the game started that she showed before the contest began.
“She looked good. When we were warming up, her rise ball wasn’t working that well, but at game time it was definitely working,” Smith said. “That and her curve. Mainly I called for curveballs and fastballs today.”
Smith said that it was a good day to call for a lot of hard stuff since it was cold out. Not just that, but the Indians did have a 5-0 lead after the second inning and a 12-0 lead after two.
“In the cold weather, we do call for a lot of fastballs,” Smith said. “In the cold weather it can be harder to grip the ball and stuff like that.”
While it didn’t seem to phase Lilek, it did seem to get in the head of the two Romeoville pitchers that had to face off against the Indians.
After a 1-2-3 first, Sara Novak started the five-run second after getting hit by a pitched ball. Mikayla Melone followed that with a single and Rachel May’s RBI single scored Novak. Megan Quirk then added an RBI single before the first out was recorded. Kelli Holstine then added an RBI single that loaded the bases and Jordyn Larsen walked to force in the fifth run of the frame.
In the third, Melone led off by reaching on an error and May singled. Quirk singled to load the bases and Smith walked to force in a run. Holstine also walked to force in another run. Consecutive RBI singles by Larsen and Marissa Burns (two RBI) ended the scoring in the inning after Spartans reliever Annamarisol Cajigas came in for starter Skye Osborne.
Minooka closed the scoring out with three run in the fourth. In that inning, Faith Thompson reached on a single and Allie Robinson walked. Smith then singled to load the bases and Sara Schmanski grounded into a fielder’s choice that saw Thompson put out at the plate.Caroline Brown the connected with an RBI single and Ali Begley reached on an error to leave the bases loaded. The final run of the game was then plated when Lilek reached on a fielder’s choice.
“It was definitely a good start,” Lilek said. “We know that there are more challenging teams in the conference this year, so this is a great way to start it.”