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DeKalb softball embraces underdog role, unfamiliar opponents

DeKALB – Two years ago, the DeKalb softball team had one heck of a run in Class 4A.

The Barbs won regional and sectional titles before losing, 12-4, to St. Charles North in the super-sectional at Northern Illinois.

This season, DeKalb (20-8), hopes it has another long playoff run in it after participating in Class 3A a year ago, losing to Burlington Central in a 19-18 regional-final slugfest.

Wednesday, the Barbs begin what they hope will be another long postseason run, when they take on Huntley in the Class 4A Jacobs Regional semifinals. DeKalb is the second-seed, losing the No. 1 spot to Cary-Grove on a coin flip.

The Barbs feel comfortable in 4A, and embrace the underdog role they usually have when going into McHenry County for the postseason.

“It reminds me of two years ago when we were [in 4A]. It reminds me of how we did and how far we went and how personally how I would love to go there again, and I really think this team could do it,” DeKalb outfielder Sabrina Killeen said. “It feels good, it feels exciting. It’s a challenge.”

One thing DeKalb coach Jeff Davis likes about being in 4A is his team is facing schools it’s not used to playing. In 3A, the Barbs would most likely be put in a regional with other teams from the Northern Illinois Big 12.

“Class 4A, I like it,” Davis said. “Is it going to be a tough road for us? Absolutely. I would rather face another team that we don’t know a whole lot about and they don’t know a whole lot about us.”

One huge key for DeKalb is the health of pitcher Katie Kowalski, who had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in the offseason. She started the season throwing only a few innings per contest, but had a complete game under her belt and feels good to go for the postseason. The Barbs also feature freshman Morgan Newport, who is 14-3 on the year.

“[The arm] feels really good, I’ve definitely gained a lot of strength,” Kowalski said. “My pitches are moving more, I’ve gotten my speed back up and I’ve gotten to be able to throw more so it feels good.”

If the Barbs are going to take home a regional plaque, they’ll also need to play good defense, something they struggled to do during a recent slump at the end of the season.

However, DeKalb had just one error in its 3-0 win over Fenton on Saturday.

“We just haven’t played good defense. Fielding balls that we have to field, it’s a must at this level and if you want to win close games and big games you have to field the ball,” Davis said. “Are we going to make an error a game? Sure, everybody’s going to, but you can’t have three and four.”

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