SENECA — Allowing batters to reach base without earning it was the thing to do when Coal City and Seneca faced off in varsity softball Monday afternoon.
The visiting Lady Coalers allowed 11 walks, hit two batters and allowed two Seneca batters to reach on errors — and they were the slightly less charitable team. They were, however, much more able to capitalize on their opportunities than Seneca in a 14-6 Interstate Eight Conference victory.
The Lady Irish, who had committed a total of five errors in their prior nine games, made eight Monday. That allowed Coal City, which coaxed a total of eight walks from Seneca pitchers Nicole Pihl and Terah Coughlin, to score 11 unearned runs. Coal City had five more runs than it had hits.
“The strike zone was tough for (Pihl) as well as for our pitcher (Emily Aichele),” Coal City coach Stephanie Harmon said. “Our key was, with everything that was in the strike zone, making good contact and hoping for base hits. You never know what’s going to happen if you put it in play.”
Coal City had already taken, and lost, two leads when it batted down 5-4 in the top of the sixth inning. Aichele scored the tying run on a Madison Giordano RBI groundout after reaching on an error. Another error on a stolen-base attempt allowed Ashlyn Hanson to score the go-ahead run. The game’s closeness was erased when Coal City catcher Gabby Bonic hit a three-run home run over the fence in left-center field.
“I just knew we needed to get some more runs at that point in the game, because their team can hit,” Bonic said.
“I saw one I could do something with, an inside pitch. I wasn’t thinking about anything like (a home run), but I just hit it, and luckily, it carried out of here.”
Hanson hit a leadoff double to spark the Lady Coalers as they added five insurance runs in the top of the seventh. They did so without the benefit of a hits the Lady Irish committed two more errors and walked three Coal City batters.
The defensive mistakes were compounded when the Lady Irish ran themselves out of several scoring opportunities. They had two on and no out in the first inning, but hit into a double play and then had a player get caught stealing after walking before Chelsie McCormick could score from third base.
In the second inning, April Hovious hit a two-out single up the middle, but a runner was thrown out trying to score from second on the play. In the sixth, Seneca loaded the bases with nobody out, only to hit a popout and have a line drive back to Aichele turn into a double play when she threw to third base, where the runner had strayed too far.
“We always preach aggressive baserunning,” Seneca coach Dan Stecken said. “The play in the first inning really hurt. All she has to do is get into a rundown long enough for the run to score and she’s making a good play. We’re happy to trade the out. And that’s something we specifically work on in practice.
“With the rain and the floods, we’ve not been able to practice, to do anything since last Tuesday. We’re not trying to make excuses, though. ... Hopefully it was just a bad game.”
Bonic, who singled and drew three walks, reached base all five times she batted for Coal City, as did Makenna Emerson, who went 2-for-3 with a fielder’s choice. Hannah Boresi and Hanson had two hits each.
Aichele picked up her 10th win of the season despite issuing the 11 walks in seven innings. All but one of the runs she allowed was earned.
“She has had to throw a lot,” Bonic said of Aichele, “and she’s been doing such a good job. It happens. You’re not going to have your best control every day. .... Today she showed she can push through and get the job done.”
Pihl was charged with 11 runs in six-plus innings, but only three were earned. She walked six and struck out four.
Lexi Trompeter and Erin Hovious each hit two-run doubles for Seneca, which had no players with multiple hits. Pihl drew five walks.