STERLING – If the gray clouds and a menacing wind weren’t gloomy enough, the opening innings between Sterling and Sycamore were.
The two teams combined for two runs and five hits in the first five innings, but the offense heated up as the temperatures dropped.
Sterling claimed a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Spartans’ softball team.
Lexy Staples pitched a complete game for Sterling (4-0) and started off hot. She got help both offensively and defensively, as her team clung to a 2-0 lead through five innings.
“I don’t think travel really bothered the kids,” said Spartans’ coach Jill Carpenter, whose team had to make the trip to Sterling because of unplayable field conditions in Sycamore. “We got here a little late, but we got here, got warm, and we just wanted to play. Just being able to play and having these fields ready is remarkable. We were willing to make the trip, and it was probably warmer here than in Sycamore.”
Sycamore (0-1) changed the course of the game in the top of the sixth inning. A walk was followed by two fielders choices, and with two-outs and a 1-2 count, Spartans’ Jasmyne Taylor connected on a bomb to tie the game at 2.
The Warriors responded quickly. After a two-out walk, junior Gabby Sandoval had a hit go up the middle, which took a hop and got past Spartan center fielder Taylor Jones, allowing the base runner from first to score to give Sterling a 3-2 lead.
It was then the Spartans’ turn to answer. Staples worked Sycamore pitcher Taylor Zak into a full count. After a battle, Zak finally got a hold of a pitch and hit a high drive to left center field, tying the game up at 3 in the top of the seventh.
Zak dodged the first batter for Sterling by forcing a line out.
Then, Warrior sophomore Shannon Long hit a slow grounder that was mishandled to allow her to reach first.
A stolen base and a sacrifice bunt moved Long over to third with two outs.
Abri Hale was next at the dish, and she delivered. With a 1-1 count, she hit a grounder right between third and short. Long took off for home, and the grounder nicked a diving Taylor Aasen. Shortstop Lyndsey Codington couldn’t make the play.
“I think some of our errors were actually on balls that were hardly moving,” Carpenter said. “A couple of poorly played bunts, and just some situational things, that I think if the kids could do all over again, they say they would do something different. But you have to love the resiliency of the girls, they played hard all the way through, they never gave up. A couple of our big kids came up with big hits, and we kept this interesting.”